Australia sucks at food safety: 233 sick with Salmonella from sprouts in SA, warning only issued now

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from another satisfied subscriber – we’re over 70,000 now – saying why was I talking about the risk of sprouts; all those outbreaks were years ago.

sprouts.batzNow, the Department of Health in South Australia is warning SA residents not to eat raw bean sprouts following a big jump in the number of reported salmonella cases.

Over the past 11 days there have been 108 salmonella cases reported in South Australia, which normally sees around 15 to 20 cases each year.

Since the start of December, SA Health has been notified of 233 cases of salmonella. Of these 233 cases, 43 people have been hospitalised.

“Our investigations have indicated to us that it is likely that the consumption of raw beansprouts is contributing to this increase,” said SA Health’s chief public health officer, Professor Paddy Phillips.


“As a result we are today advising South Australians to cook all bean sprouts and avoid eating raw bean sprouts.”


U.S. has been advising that for a deade.

“We also want to alert food retailers such as restaurants and cafes not to serve raw bean sprouts until further notice. We are working closely with the producers, suppliers and handlers of the sprouts and are continuing to investigate.

jimmy.johns_.sproutsBut 20-year-old examples mean nothing when, it hasn’t happened here.

A table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at

And never underestimate the power of denial.

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


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. Scientific 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.