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.