Sprout safety issue requires industry reinforcement – and verification

Manuals and guidelines are nice, but without implementation, coupled with meaningful verification, they’re sorta useless.

Steffanie Smith of the Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science board member
Partner, California Sprouts, writes to The Packer about our paper, “Failures in sprouts-related risk communication,” a study scheduled to be published in the April 2013 issue of the journal Food Control.

While we agree with the fact that there have been several outbreaks in sprouts over the last several years, we disagree with the assumption that sprouts are not safe to consume raw.

We formed the alliance because our member companies have proven sprouts can be grown safely if companies are dedicated to following rigorous food safety practices.

Since 1999, there have been a number of sprout growers that have been diligent in following Food and Drug Administration guidance and have instituted comprehensive and sprout-appropriate good manufacturing practices.

Those companies have a long history of not being associated with an outbreak.

While there is no fresh produce product that can ever be absolutely safe, sprouts can be produced that meet all the safety expectations consumers hold for fresh produce.

The challenge in the industry has been to get and keep growers in compliance.

Since there are growers that do and growers that don’t comply, we formed the Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science for growers that not only want to comply with FDA guidance, but are willing to implement and comply with rigorous alliance standards as well.

Members of the Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science did not believe, as an industry, we could wait until the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Sprout Safety Alliance process is complete before providing member companies with state-of-the art recommendations on how to implement the current guidance, as well as the expanded alliance requirements for producing safe sprouts.

To that end, SASS has created a technical committee made up of leading food safety experts who will be further developing and continuously updating the set of alliance standards.

There is a commitment among some sprout companies to meet and even exceed the FDA guidance in order to produce safe sprouts.

Through the alliance, we want to help educate foodservice and retail customers, as well as the end consumer, that a choice exists.