38403769-seed-merchant.jpgThursday night I received an email that the Regional Health Authority of Aquitaine France was set to announce that at least eight people (now ten) from the Bordeaux area of France had been sickened, and several hospitalized, because of E. coli infections (with two testing positive for E. coli O104:H4 – of the German variety). French authorities have now pointed the finger at bean sprouts grown using fenugreek, mustard and rocket seeds produced by British seed manufacturer Thompson and Morgan that had been sprinkled on soup. At least seven of the victims had attended a fair held at a school in Bègles, a suburb of Bordeaux, on June 8, and six of them had eaten Gazpacho soup which had been garnished with bean sprouts specially grown for that purpose, as an educational exercise, by children attending the school.

Not surprisingly, speaking on BBC Radio today, Paul Hansord, Managing Director of Thompson & Morgan, defended the company’s products by saying that the cause of the infection was:

Related to poor hygiene practices than contaminated seeds from its factory, or

The seeds came from Italy rather than directly from British outlets.

Classic – “it is the customers fault,” and if not that, “someone else gave us the bad seeds.”

In 2009 the United States experienced a Salmonella outbreak that sickened 235 eventually linked to seeds that were sourced from, guess where? Italy.

There are still questions to be answered in both the French and German outbreaks. Where did the Gaertnerhof organic sprouts farm in the northern German village of Bienenbuette (linked to the German outbreak that has to date killed 45 and sickened nearly 4,000 – likely far more – in Europe and the Untied States) get its seeds? Is there an Italian connection?

Also, there were reports that workers at the German farm were also sick. When were they sick – before or after others became ill? Were any of them the index case? Is there any connection between the French and German outbreak other than the possibility of seeds?

More questions than answers as the bodies are counted.

  • Mark

    Since Thompson & Morgan are seed resellers, if they have got seed that was part of the problem, then tracking down the seed source and then contacting all the companies holding the stocks of seed is key. Seeds usually have batch codes, what were the codes? Where did the German sprout grower buy their seeds?

    There was no mention as far as I could see of the “organic” with the French outbreak. Also did the Germans ever say what kind of sprout variety was the cause? That would help a bit otherwise all sprouts are implicated.

  • Mary

    Well, that’s some educational project. Certainly not one to forget: how to give your parents E. coli.

  • Carl Custer

    Not the first time that a pathogen has been embedded in a seed used for sprouts.
    Bees need to wipe their feet — or — be supplied with clean water.
    “Deja vue all over again”