Sprouts still suck; another outbreak sickens at least 115 with Salmonella

The prison warden told Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke in the 1967 film that “what we have here is a failure to communicate.”

coolhandlukeIt’s based on an authoritarian model and is the oldest excuse out there; all kinds of problems could be solved if everyone just communicated better, especially scientists and others.

The anti-authoritarian heros of great American movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Blues Brothers and Stripes all found different ways to communicate, in unconventional ways.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports a total of 115 persons infected with the outbreak strains were reported from 12 states. The number of ill people identified in each state was as follows: Connecticut (8), Maine (4), Maryland (6), Massachusetts (36), Montana (1), New Hampshire (6), New York (22), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (18), Rhode Island (7), Vermont (3), and Virginia (1). The one ill person from Montana traveled to the Eastern United States during the period when exposure likely occurred. Since the last update on December 16, 2014, four additional cases were reported from Maryland (1), Massachusetts (1), New York (1), and Pennsylvania (1).

Illness onset dates ranged from September 30, 2014, to December 15, 2014. Ill persons ranged in age from younger than 1 year to 83 years, with a median age of 32 years. Sixty-four percent of ill persons were female. Among 75 persons with available information, 19 (25%) were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.

This outbreak appears to be over. However, sprouts are a known source of foodborne illness. CDC recommends that consumers, restaurants, and other retailers always follow food safety practices to avoid illness from eating sprouts.

Erdozain, M.S., Allen, K.J., Morley, K.A. and Powell, D.A. 2012. Failures in sprouts-related risk communication. Food Control. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.08.022

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004707?v=s5

Abstract

Nutritional and perceived health benefits have contributed to the increasing popularity of raw sprouted seed products. In the past two decades, sprouted seeds have been a recurring food safety concern, with at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people. A compilation of selected publications was used to yield an analysis of the evolving safety and risk communication related to raw sprouts, including microbiological safety, efforts to improve production practices, and effectiveness of communication prior to, during, and after sprout-related outbreaks.

amy.sprouts.guelph.05Scientific investigation and media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks has led to improved production guidelines and public health enforcement actions, yet continued outbreaks call into question the effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance. Raw sprouts remain a high-risk product and avoidance or thorough cooking are the only ways that consumers can reduce risk; even thorough cooking messages fail to acknowledge the risk of cross-contamination. Risk communication messages have been inconsistent over time with Canadian and U.S. governments finally aligning their messages in the past five years, telling consumers to avoid sprouts. Yet consumer and industry awareness of risk remains low. To minimize health risks linked to the consumption of sprout products, local and national public health agencies, restaurants, retailers and producers need validated, consistent and repeated risk messaging through a variety of sources.