As the death toll in the German E. coli O104 outbreak reached 48 and the sick approached 4,000, investigators have provided no clues on a key question: where did the seeds for sprouting originate?
Does anyone know?
"Investigations are ongoing, but the first findings suggest that locally grow sprouts might be involved," the WHO said in a statement Monday of the outbreak. It said that, of eight French cases so far, three of them carried the same bacteria strains as in Germany.
"Intensive traceback is under way to identify a possible common source of the German and French sprout seeds," it added. But "other potential vehicles are also under investigation
There was "no direct supply relationship" between the farm in Germany at the center of the outbreak and the British company, Thompson & Morgan, German spokeswoman Bansbach said.
Paul Hansord, managing director of Thompson & Morgan, said last night that it was “highly unlikely” that seeds supplied by his firm were to blame for the outbreak and insisted he had no plans to recall the products from shops and customers who have already bought them.
Environmental health officers have taken samples of the seeds from the company’s premises in Ipswich, Suffolk, so they can be tested for any trace of the E coli bug. The results are expected within four days.
“We have sold many hundreds of thousands of packets of sprouting seeds to home gardeners for several years without any reported problems.
“In particular we have sold around 100,000 packets of sprouting seeds in France from more than 500 outlets just since last November.
“All of the seeds came from the same batch and have been on sale in France for many months so if there had been a problem with them, we would have expected it to have emerged earlier.”
That’s nice. Where do the seeds come from? And are they circling the globe so that more outbreaks can be expected?