In 2005, as I was flying from Toronto to Kansas City to hang out with the love of my life in Manhattan (Kansas) I’d met a couple of weeks before, over 700 people in Ontario (that’s in Canada) were sickened with Salmonella in raw mung bean sprouts.
After the German E. coli O104 outbreak that killed 53 people in 2011and sickened over 4,000, along, with the ridiculous public statements and blatant disregard for public safety taken by sandwich artist Jimmy John’s in the U.S., I figured we really needed to publish something.
The basic conclusions:
• raw sprouts are a well-documented source of foodborne illness;
• risk communication about raw sprouts has been inconsistent; and,
• continued outbreaks question effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance
We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://bites.ksu.edu/sprouts-associated-outbreaks.
Sprouts present a unique food safety challenge compared to other fresh produce, as the sprouting process provides optimal conditions for the growth and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria. The sprout industry, regulatory agencies, and the academic community have been collaborating to improve the microbiological safety of raw sprouts, including the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), establishing guidelines for safe sprout production, and chemical disinfection of seed prior to sprouting. However, guidelines and best practices are only as good as their implementation. The consumption of raw sprouts is considered high-risk, especially for young, elderly and immuno-compromised persons (FDA, 2009).
But, leave it to Canada’s self-proclaimed paper of record to push sprouts on kids in their back-to-school lunch feature.