Screen shot 2011-01-30 at 10.00.02 PM.pngSeven people in Oregon and Washington became ill with Salmonella in January after eating the Sprouter’s Northwest clover sprouts. The company subsequently recalled all its sprouts. A few days ago the FDA released 483 Inspection Report of the Sprouter’s Northwest facility.

  • Failure to take necessary precautions to protect against contamination of food and food contact surfaces with microorganisms and foreign substances. Listeria monocytogenes was found on the surface of a stainless steel table in the packing room, according to the report. The raw sprouts were stored in unlined plastic crates so the sprouts at the bottom were in contact with pallets and other totes, which previously had been in contact with the floor.
  • Failure to clean food-contact surfaces as frequently as necessary to protect against contamination of food. Food debris and residue was found in the hard-to-clean areas in and around the conveyor belt and sprouts that passed along and got briefly stuck in these areas could fall back into the rinse tank. Inspectors said it appeared that equipment and fixtures in the seed disinfection room were not cleaned between use.
  • Failure to clean non-food-contact surfaces of equipment as frequently as necessary to protect against contamination. Listeria seeligeri was detected on the surface of a brown mass of old, thick food grime on a cross-support place at the top of the rinse incline belt, the report stated.
  • Effective measures are not being taken to protect against contamination of food on the premises by pests. Inspectors said gaps at the bottom of a door and along the roof line could allow pests access to the facility. They said they found rodent excreta pellets in the warehouse and noted that the processing room was accessible from the warehouse.
  • Failure to properly store equipment, remove litter and waste, and cut weeds or grass that may constitute an attractant, breeding place or harborage area for pests, within the immediate vicinity of the plant, building, or structures.
  • Failure to maintain buildings, fixtures, or other physical structures in a sanitary condition
  • Failure to hold raw materials in bulk or suitable containers so as to protect against contamination.
  • Four to five bags partially filled with seed were stored open or not tightly wrapped inside the warehouse, the inspectors reported.
  • Bob Behling

    What can consumers do to reduce the risk of illness?

    •Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
    •Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking kills the harmful bacteria.
    •Request that raw sprouts not be added to your food. If you purchase a sandwich or salad at a restaurant or delicatessen, check to make sure that raw sprouts have not been added.

    The cautionary verbage shown above is directly taken from the government’s wesite: › Keep Food Safe › By Types of Food –

    Beside the fact that FDA is “sprouting” here about it’s perceived evils inherent in using raw commercially grown sprouts (another story in itself), the food processing environment once again comes into play. As most well trained food safety microbiologists will tell you, you cannot test food products enough to assure safety for the consumer without consuming the entire lot of product itself.

    In my experience as a food safety microbiologist, spoilage and pathogenic microbes have uncanny ways of avoiding HACCP programs and ending up in the product stream. So simply asking not to have sprouts put on your sandwich flies in the face of the danger within the kitchen of cross contamination due to proximity of potentially contaminated sprouts in the first place. The question as I see it is: “How can you assure safe consumption of a non-safe product?” If that is so, FDA has an obligation to put the issue on the front burner and decide how to respond in a more meaningful way that just warning consumers. I’m afraid that means litigation toward banning commercial sprout processes as they exist today. Let the dialogue begin!

  • That sounds intense. It justt goes to show the dangers that are virtually unpredictable yet so available to everyone