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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Is it time to treat sprouts like raw milk?

sprouts-illustration-jpg.jpgRaw milk is banned from interstate sale and is limited in many others because of the risk of foodborne illness. Yet, sprouts, which have been causing a number of outbreaks recently, and over the decades, can be sold and bought whenever and wherever.

Bruce Blythe of the Packer exploded this in his article a few hours ago – “Sproutbreak: Concerns mount over sandwich, salad topping.”  Here are a few choice points:

Salmonella and E. coli outbreaks linked to tainted sprouts have been “a recognized problem for decades,” said Mike Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. “I consider sprouts to be among the most risky foods sold at retail.” …

Tainted sprouts have caused at least 39 illness outbreaks since 1990, according to Bill Marler, a Seattle-based product liability attorney. Marler has sued sprout companies on behalf of more than 100 people sickened in recent outbreaks. The sprout industry “hasn’t seemed to be able to get a handle” on bacterial contamination controls the way the leafy greens industry has, Marler said. “They’re not doing enough to combat the problem. They need to come up with some strategy to make their product safer.” “Retail and grocery stores need to rethink whether they should sell the product,” he said.

It is an interesting question.

  • Carl Custer

    I’m working on a time line for the IAFP Centennial this year.
    One item is for sprouts (Thanx and a Tip ‘O the Hat to Doug & Ben):
    1988: First recorded outbreak of salmonellosis in sprouts: 143
    culture-confirmed cases of Salmonella Saint-Paul in mung seed sprouts
    in the United Kingdom. In the next decade over 8000 culture-confirmed
    cases were reported world wide. In the next 22 years numerous papers
    were published in the Journal of Food Protection on interventions.
    However this paper may best sum up the results:
    “Analysis of published sprout seed disinfection studies shows
    treatments are highly variable.” Montville. R. I. and Schaffner. D.W.
    (2004). Journal of Food Protection. 67(4):758-765. Since 2001 there
    have been 19 outbreaks in North America.

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    Seems to me that they should be in a similar category as raw milk in that there is a much higher risk of pathogen should you choose to consume. Perhaps they need warning labels like cigarettes?