Six months after 53 people were killed and over 4,000 sickened with E. coli O104 in raw sprouts, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said today that producers of sprouted seeds should tighten safety measures along the production chain.
Pathogenic bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E.coli) can contaminate the seeds intended for sprouting during production, storage and distribution through contaminated irrigation water and soil particles, in a statement on Tuesday.
The high temperatures and humidity needed for the germination and sprouting of seeds are also favorable conditions for bacteria to grow and spread, while consumption of raw or minimally processed sprouted seeds pose additional safety concerns, EFSA said.
Producers should ensure safe use of fertilizers and irrigation water, minimize contamination of seeds with soil during harvest and prevent mechanical damage of seeds, it said.
Producers should also make sure that seeds are transported, processed and stored under conditions minimizing the potential for microbial contamination.
They should remove damaged seeds and improve the ability to trace seed lots, it said.
Dr. Dr. Chuck Dodd (DVM, PhD), program manager for veterinary services in the U.S. Army Public Health Command Region – Europe, shared his experiences from the midst of the E. coli O104 outbreak associated with raw sprouts centered in Germany earlier this year.
The video of Dr. Dr. Dodd, looking sharp in his military fatigues and fresh from another of his 100-mile ultra-marathons, is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/dodd-lecture as are the PowerPoint slides.
European Union food safety and disease prevention agencies joined a mounting chorus today and said, don’t eat raw sprouts, as clues emerged about the origin of seeds.
AFP reports the two bodies conducted a study and said that they "strongly recommend to advise consumers not to grow sprouts for their own consumption and not to eat sprouts or sprouted seeds unless they have been cooked thoroughly."
The report by the European Food Safety Authority in Italy and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Sweden said sprouts are often sold as mixes and "during re-packaging cross-contamination cannot be excluded."
Meanwhile CIDRAP reports new trace-back investigations in German and French E. coli outbreaks are pointing to two lots of fenugreek seeds that were imported from Egypt, according to the latest threat assessment from European officials.
Sprouts from Egyptian fenugreek seeds are suspected in both a cluster of French E coli O104:H4 illnesses and the large outbreak in Germany involving the same strain, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said in a risk assessment today. But the agencies cautioned that there is no lab evidence yet tying the seeds to the outbreaks.
The ECDC and the EFSA said they have urgently requested that the German-based company that imported the seeds help them track other customers who received fenugreek seeds from the two lots.
Officials suspect that Egyptian fenugreek seeds imported in 2009 are linked to the French E coli cluster and that a batch from 2010 is linked to the German outbreak. The ECDC identified the seed importer as AGA SAAT GMBH, based in Dusseldorf, Germany. It said a UK company that reportedly supplied the sprout seeds linked to the French cluster obtained the seeds from AGA SAAT GMBH.
Maybe there’s something lost in translation.
The First meeting of the High Level Forum for a better functioning of the food supply chain happened November 16 in Brussels.
“It will adopt a work plan to boost competitiveness and to promote best contractual practices in the European food sector, extending the work of the previous High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food Industry to the whole supply chain. Vice President Antonio Tajani is leading …”
The organization sounds mildly interesting, in a caste-sorta way:
The work of the Forum will be developed along a three-tier structure, namely:
The High Level Forum (Ministers, CEOs, Presidents of associations, etc),
the Sherpa group which mirrors the memberships of the Forum and which will have as main task the preparation of the work of the Forum in close cooperation with the Commission services, several expert platforms (working groups), namely:
Business to business contractual practices in the food supply chain,
Food price monitoring tool,
Competitiveness in the agro-food industry,
Who writes this stuff?
The Irish Times reports that the number of “verotoxigenic” E.coli cases reported in Ireland is more than five times the EU average and has almost doubled in the space of a year, according to the report compiled by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa).
Verotoxigenic E.coli affects the digestive system. Some 225 cases were reported in 2008, of which 213 were confirmed. Ireland’s average of 4.8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 3.3 in the next highest country, Sweden, and 1.9 in the UK. Irish cases have increased more than threefold in four years.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said the increase may be due to the contamination of private wells by heavy rainfall during the summer of 2008.
Maybe the Irish are paying more attention than the rest of Europe.
My wife and I recently returned from our 6 week honeymoon vacation in Europe. We spent three weeks in France, one week in Spain, and two weeks in Bella Italia. The scenery was breathtaking, the architecture unimaginable, the stench from unpasteurized cheese- priceless. My sister in law, who was also travelling with us in France, was quite taken away with a few of the unpasteurized cheeses offered. She later experienced severe cramps, headaches, nausea, bloody diarrhea, and ended up barfing away-exorcism style. After the second day of bed rest, she decided to visit the local hospital as the symptoms seem to have been worsening. The attending physician simply indicated that she had food poisoning. No samples were submitted, no food history, no information regarding foods she should be avoiding, nothing. Dr. Spaceman from 30 Rock would have probably have given better advice. If the attending physician decided not to submit samples for analysis or obtain a food history, perhaps some food safety tips would have been appropriate like avoid unpasteurized cheeses.
Albert Amgar, a food safety consultant in Laval, France for the past 21 years and the provider of all things French and food safety for bites.ksu.edu, steps out in his first barfblog post.
National Food Safety Authority Evira recommends that foreign frozen raspberries always be properly heated before use. Norovirus epidemics have occurred in different parts of Finland over the spring and the cause is suspected to be foreign frozen raspberries used in cakes without heating.
Evira urges consumers and mass caterers to check the origin of frozen raspberries and to only use foreign raspberries after adequate heating in order to avoid food poisoning. Frozen raspberries of foreign origin should be heated for at least two minutes at 90 degrees Celcius.
The problem is well known. In 1995, scientists from Denmark reported that "imported frozen raspberries caused a series of norovirus outbreaks". But in the conclusions the authors noted, very friendly to their other European colleagues, "As Polish frozen raspberries are known to be exported to several European countries, it would be extremely surprising, if Denmark were the only country where there were recent outbreaks due to frozen raspberries.”