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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

French Finger British Sprouts as Cause of Yet Another New E. coli Outbreak

Is it the seeds?

With the numbers of deaths (at last count at last 44) still rising in Europe stemming from the German E. coli O104:H4 bean sprout outbreak, and with outbreak illness also tied to Michigan, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and the probable death of a 65 year old man in Arizona, it is hard to keep track of all the other E. coli outbreaks happening around the world.

Screen shot 2011-06-24 at 2.07.51 PM.pngIn the United States E. coli has sickened over two dozen children in apparently separate outbreaks in Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama. And, in France a week ago several children were stricken by E. coli-tainted hamburger from Germany in the French city of Lille.

Then today a French minister pointed to a British producer of vegetable sprouts as the possible source of 10 suspected cases of E. coli poisoning in Bordeaux in southwestern France. Apparently, at least six out of the 10 people were found to have eaten the sprouts at a local “fete in Begres” and seven are hospitalized.

According to press reports, tests had shown two of the patients were infected by the same (presumably, E. coli O104:H4) deadly strain of the disease found in Germany, but officials did not say whether there was a link between the two outbreaks. Frederic Lefebvre, secretary of state for consumer affairs, said the sprouts were purchased at a Jardiland store and were produced by Thompson & Morgan based in Ipswich, England.

It is going to be a busy summer. I am glad I took German in High School and French in College.

  • doc raymond

    I know a reporter cannot report what they think, but a reblogger sure can. In Public Health, in an emergency, the officials need to take what they know, and mix it with what they think, and then set a policy. Sometimes they look silly, but mostly, they save lives. If I were still a PH official, and needed to place a bet on this outbreak in the Bordeaux region of France, I would say it happened not because a sprout grower in England cut corners, but because s/he bought seeds from the same source as the commercial sprout grower in Germany and the private family in Germany that grew their own sprouts from the same seed company.
    There just is no logical reason to think that we could see two outbreaks with a strain of O104 in a matter of weeks, when all of history only recorded very few illnesses from this non-O157 STEC. Or EaggEC.
    If my hunch is right, and the same seed source exists for the two outbreaks, then what should happen right now, around the globe, is for all sprouts grown from the producer of those seeds, to be recalled before we see any more illnesses.

  • Re German Outbreak – I still would like to know when the workers at the sprouter first became ill and I would like to see if the seed supplier is the same in both the French and German outbreaks.

  • doc raymond

    When the workers became ill is a key issue, but my “source”, and he was correct on this one in France, says that a family bought seeds from the same retailer as the German sprouting company, and four family members are a part of the huge outbreak, but only consumed their personally raised sprouts. To me that means the E coli came to Europe on the seeds, and that is where the recall efforts need to be pointed.

  • Looks like it may well be sprout seeds:

  • John Munsell

    I find it interesting again that new reporting services (including Marler Blog) are interested in identifying the source, or origin, of the E.coli-contaminated sprouts, apparently sourced in the seeds. I also find it interesting that FSIS lacks the same commitment to identify the true source of E.coli or Salmonella-contaminated meat, content to commence and conclude investigations at the downstream destination where sicknesses occurred. When CDC or local and state health authorities get involved, only then does FSIS also get involved, as the agency would look conspicuous by its absence.