The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday added a case to the count – from 4 to 5. Unlike the previous four, the new case was not someone who had been to Germany in May — it was a family member who apparently was infected from close contact with the ill traveler. One case has been confirmed as the same form of E. coli (E. coli O104:H4), and the other four are still suspected. They include people in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Michigan.
And with the sprouts being fingered as the likely cause of the outbreak that has killed 33 and sickened nearly 3,100, there has been some media attention on the issue:
Bill Marler, an attorney who has represented clients in more than a dozen sprout-related outbreaks, was much less diplomatic when asked if he eats the food.
“No, I don’t,” he said. “I think most people involved in public health avoid sprouts because they are simply too risky.”
Marler, who was one of the attorneys representing victims of the 2010 outbreak linked to Tiny Greens, said he’s sympathetic to sprout growers who must work in a challenging environment.
“One of the difficulties is the seeds themselves can become contaminated and the contamination is inside of the seed,” Marler said. “So you can deal with clean water and have careful workers, but you can’t test every seed. You have to grow some.”
Friday afternoon, Marler renewed his call for the FDA to require warning labels on sprouts similar to those applied to raw milk containers, where the produce is legal to sell.
“We’ve had over 40 sprout-related outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella in the U.S. since 1994, when we started doing genetic fingerprinting to track outbreaks,” said Seattle attorney Bill Marler, a food safety expert. “People should not eat sprouts, period. Federal officials warn the young, the elderly and people with immune-compromised systems not to eat sprouts.”
Bill Marler, a Seattle-based attorney and food safety advocate, has represented hundreds of people sickened by sprouts. He says people should think about them in the same category as they do unpasteurized milk, oysters or other potentially risky foods.
“People in the know in public health don’t eat sprouts,” Marler said.
Bill Marler of the food-safety law firm Marler Clark, sponsor of Food Safety News, said, “Those that know, know not to eat sprouts. Illnesses caused by E. coli and Salmonella in local, organically sprouts can be be just a deadly as mass-produced beef.”
Marler Clark recently donated $10,000 to the International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA) to be used for sprout-safety research being conducted at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
“Eat simply, locally, things that you wash well, cook well and process yourself. Wash your hands and keep your kitchen clean — especially the dish rag. Keep cold things cold and hot things hot. Keep meat and unwashed vegetables away from ready to eat food. Have a glass of good red wine.
“Think about eating mass-produced raw meat and produce like you are swimming in a pool with a thousand people you don’t know. Think of eating as described above as sitting in a bath with your significant other — hopefully less risky and much more fun.”