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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Its Sprout Month – Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin Linked to German E. coli O104:H4 Outbreak – Is it Sprouts?

sprouts-illustration-jpg.jpgAccording to the CDC, in the United States, four suspected cases of STEC O104:H4 infections have been identified in persons who recently traveled to Hamburg, Germany, where they were likely exposed. One case of HUS has been reported in each of three states: Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Additionally, one case of Shiga toxin-positive diarrheal illness is still under investigation. All four cases are pending laboratory confirmation.

German scientists found no traces of E. coli O104:H4 bacteria at an organic vegetable farm believed to be the source of an outbreak that has killed 22 people, sickened 2,153 in Germany and 90 others in 10 European countries and the United States. 627 people have developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.

Even though first lab tests on bean sprouts from the farm were negative, officials said they were not surprised because any contaminated produce could have been long since distributed.

“This is an important lead that we’re vigorously pursuing,” federal Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said in Berlin on Monday after the state agriculture ministry in Lower Saxony state said the 23 samples tested so far had been negative.

However, Aigner repeated warnings to consumers to avoid bean sprouts, cucumbers, tomatoes and salad and for good reason. In its latest report, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said the source of the outbreak has not been identified, but fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce from the northern part of the country “must be considered to have the highest relative risk for infection compared to other foods investigated,” and these raw vegetables should be avoided “until the definitive source of the outbreak has been identified.” These were the results:

— Lettuce had been eaten by 84 percent of those ill, but only by 47 percent of the controls.

— Cucumbers had been eaten by 75 percent of those ill, but only 50 percent of the controls.

— Tomatoes had been eaten by 80 percent of those ill, but only 63 percent of the controls.

A total of 95 percent of those ill had eaten at least one of these vegetables.

And, sprouts were on the questionnaire.

Ironically, the International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA) announces the launch of International Sprout Health & Wellness Month for June. As the press release states:

During the month of June consumers around the world will be able to taste and learn all about these amazing vegetables, that some have called “Superfood”, and that have been harvested as a low- calorie, high benefit food source for over 3,000 years.

Well, perhaps not this month.

  • deborah

    Did you intend to say that sprouts were NOT on the questionnaire?

  • Doc Mudd

    Sprouts a “superfood”, indeed. And, “International Sprouts Health & Wellness Month”??
    Could someone please dropkick some sense into those damned fools?
    Oh, well, the hard work is never finished for the good folks over at the ISGA – they point out they’ve been trying to poison us to death for over 3000 years but still some of us stubbornly survive.

  • Soon you will hear the screaming – Why Buying Organic Can’t Save You From E. Coli – http://bit.ly/kWVRSQ

  • Doc Mudd

    Aw let ’em scream (if they still can when they’re doubled over with stomach cramps, gasping for breath between vomiting bouts).
    Let’s not overlook the incidental finding that organic Spanish cucumbers cultured positive for E. coli – it just happened they weren’t the particular strain of E. coli being sought.
    Fecal contamination, all the same…on organic cucumbers…so it isn’t just organic sprouts that can give you and the kids a rip-roarin’ case of the backdoor trots (or worse).
    Oh, and those Spanish cucumbers were certainly “local” to someone somewhere in Spain. But maybe word was out not to eat the local feces-laden cukes; “dont’ eat them danged cukes, you kids – those are grown special for shipment to the Germans”!
    Organic producers – the righteous guys with the manure – give them your blind trust!

  • Can I.B. Frank

    Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the Mom’s news site that Bill linked to above has positioned just to the right of the article an advertisement for “Li’l Swimmer diapers” – those paper/plastic/elastic amalgams that are *supposed* to keep your baby’s poop out of the water when you bring him to the public pool with you! Wishful thinking!
    We have a long way to go, and I’m afriad we’re not going to get there….. too many people, too much poop, too little water. I think it’s just going to get worse.
    And how come no one ever talks about probiotics as a defense strategy?

  • Doc Mudd

    “Li’l Swimmer” diapers are for the pool? I mistakenly assumed it was a reference to the capacity of the diaper to go a couple days or longer between changes. Damn, shoulda known it was a breakthrough too good to be true!
    Guess I was distracted by the unsolicited advice to young mothers: “Don’t Accept an Engagement Ring Under a Carat Unless… ”
    I would never know such a worldly website existed if it hadn’t been linked here. That’s a little troubling, actually.
    .
    –back on topic– Probiotics might be OK, but why not just keep the turds separate from the food in the first place?

  • John Munsell

    Doc has a good point: “…but why not just keep the turds separate from the food in the first place?”
    Some points we already know: those turds deposit typically invisible fecal bacteria on beef carcasses, and unfortunately our current interventions are not 100% effective. Now that’s an understatement.
    Also, there is an undeniable risk associated with all raw food, be it beef, produce, apples, etc. Not only must we be defensive drivers, we also need to be defensive cooks and consumers when we deal with raw food, whether it emanates from a huge farm/feedlot or a small, local producer’s facility.
    Perhaps my primary goal here is to determine the SOURCE, whether it’s a feedlot, apple orchard, or sprout farm. Once the SOURCE has been conclusively identified, it behooves government officials to force the source to implement meaningful corrective actions to prevent recurrences. FSIS is woefully lacking in this area, by intentional agency design. Not an easy task (espcially if food products of various origins are commingled), but a task which can be more successfully completed if all parties involved aggressively embrace and implement traceback to the SOURCE.
    John Munsell