225 now sick from salmonella in sprouts

A U.K. outbreak of Salmonella Bareilly infection associated with contaminated bean sprouts is ongoing, although fewer new cases of illness are now being recorded.

The Health Protection Agency’s Centre for Infections (CFI) in Colindale has identified 204 cases of S. Bareilly in England, Wales (5 of the cases) and Northern Ireland (3 of the cases) since the beginning of August – nearly six times the number that the CFI would normally expect to see in that timescale. Health Protection Scotland identified 21 cases in the same period.

That’s 225 confirmed sick people, up from 169 a month ago.

Dr Joe Kearney, a Director with the HPA’s Health Protection Services Division who is chairing an outbreak control team said,

“We made a possible association with bean sprouts comparatively early in the investigation so our colleagues in the Food Standards Agency were able to issue timely advice to the catering industry. This advice was repeated and strengthened as the evidence linking contaminated bean sprouts to the outbreak became stronger. At the same time, we have been active in getting information to the public through the news media. We are now seeing fewer cases of illness, which would tend to suggest that our advice is being heeded.”

Maybe. Maybe not. It does suggest an on-going problem with salmonella in sprouts.

The Food Standards Agency advice is:

* “Bean sprouts should be cooked until they are piping hot unless they are clearly labeled as ready-to-eat.

* “As a precautionary measure it is advised that even bean sprouts labeled as ready-to-eat should be thoroughly cooked if they are to be served to young children, elderly people, people with impaired immune systems and pregnant women.

* “People who prepare meals in catering establishments and in the home should keep raw bean sprouts separate and apart from other salad produce, including bean sprouts that are labeled as ready-to-eat, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

•”If this advice is followed bean sprouts will be safe to eat.”