Change the law, name the supplier: Salmonella in seed transfers to sprouts in Kansas and sickens 26

They’re probably still eating sprout-laden sandwiches at science-based faculty meetings at Kansas State University.

jimmy.john's.sproutsFollowing an initial announcement of eight people sick with Salmonella from sprouts in Kansas and Missouri – followed by surveillance silence – the U.S. Centers for Disease Control now reports that 26 people were infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Muenchen (25 people), or Salmonella Kentucky (1 person), as reported from 12 states. Eight people were hospitalized and no deaths were reported.

In February 2016, state and local health and regulatory officials in several states traced back the source of the sprouts from multiple restaurant locations where ill people ate them, and identified Sweetwater Farms of Inman, Kansas, as a supplier of alfalfa sprouts to all of these locations. The FDA collected and tested irrigation water and alfalfa sprout samples from Sweetwater Farms LLC and found Salmonella Kentucky and Salmonella Cubana. Salmonella Muenchen was not isolated.

On February 19, 2016, FDA and other federal, state, and local agencies briefed Sweetwater Farms LLC on their findings, and the firm voluntarily recalled alfalfa sprouts grown from a specific seed lot.

On February 26, 2016, Sweetwater Farms informed the FDA that it would recall all of its sprout products from the market.

After the recalls by Sweetwater Farms were completed, Salmonella Muenchen illnesses were still reported by people who reported eating alfalfa sprouts before they got sick. FDA traceback investigations indicated that several sprouters other than Sweetwater Farms produced the alfalfa sprouts these ill people ate. All of these sprouters, as well as Sweetwater Farms, used the same seed lot.

FDA tested samples of seeds from this lot and isolated Salmonella Cubana with the same DNA fingerprint of the Salmonella Cubana isolated in irrigation water from Sweetwater Farms. FDA contacted the seed supplier, who then called for the return of the contaminated seed lot from growers. The seed supplier is not named here because FDA is prohibited by law from releasing certain information about supply chains, which may constitute confidential commercial information. However, FDA has been able to confirm that all domestic sprouters who received contaminated seeds either returned or destroyed the seeds, and the shelf life of all sprouts grown from this seed lot has expired. Therefore, no sprouts from the contaminated seed lot are expected to be on the market.

sprout.santa.barf.xmasOn May 13, 2016, CDC reports that this outbreak appears to be over. FDA has provided the sprouters with information on reducing microbial food safety hazards for sprouted seeds and complying with new standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce for human consumption under the Produce Safety Rule, which beings to go into effect for sprouters in January 2017 with additional time for small and very small operations. In particular, covered sprouters will now be required to comply with sprout-specific requirements such as treating seeds to reduce the presence of microorganisms of public health significance, testing the growing environment for Listeria as well as testing each production batch of spent sprout irrigation water or sprouts for E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella species and, under certain conditions, other pathogens. In addition, sprouters would be expected to comply with all other applicable requirements of the Produce Safety Rule, such as requirements related to worker health and hygiene, agricultural water and buildings, tools and equipment.

An updated table of raw sprout related outbreaks is available at:

Bird feeders can spread Salmonella

My grandparents were all about birds; they had Audubon field guides and binoculars in multiple spots in their house. Whenever I visited them in Campbellford, Ontario (that’s in Canada) I always helped fill up their bird feeder with seed.

Who knows how much Salmonella I was exposed to.

According to the Press Democrat, backyard bird feeders are a source of Salmonella for  and sharing the seed is probably leading to the demise of some song birds. The pathogen spreads from the bird-to-bird – or the seed

Andrienne Faulkner loves feeding birds.

The 69-year-old Montgomery Village area resident spends about $700 a year on birdseed for the various feeders in the yard.

So when she spotted two dead songbirds in her yard last week — a finch near a garbage can and a pine siskin on her patio — she first thought West Nile virus might be to blame.

She made some inquiries, and was surprised to learn that it wasn’t West Nile that was killing the birds — it was her.

Well, not exactly. The direct cause is likely a salmonella outbreak sweeping through several Bay Area counties.

But by providing birds a place to eat and congregate, Faulkner and other backyard birders may be unwittingly helping spread avian diseases, like the salmonella outbreak now spreading through finch populations in the region.

“I want to feed them, but I don’t want to kill them,” said Faulkner, who said she plans to remove her feeders and clean them as recommended.

The outbreak started about a month ago with a sharp increase in the number of people reporting dead or lethargic songbirds, said Veronica Bowers, founder and director of Native Songbird Care & Conservation in Sebastopol, a rescue center focused on songbirds.

One of the birds taken to her center has since tested positive for salmonella, she said. State Department of Fish and Wildlife officials have alerted her and other rescue centers of outbreaks in Sonoma, Sacramento, Alameda and other Bay Area counties, she said.

In a somewhat related story, a bunch of parrots at the San Diego Zoo have been vaccinated for Salmonella, according to San Diego 6.

About one-third of the small parrots that reside in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s aviary have been vaccinated to protect against salmonella, which killed some of the flock, zoo officials said today.

“We recently lost some birds to salmonella,” said Bruce Rideout, director of the Wildlife Disease Laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global. “Although unfortunate, we were able to use this loss to take biological samples necessary for isolating the bacteria. These samples became the basis for the vaccine.”

Twenty out of the flock of 60 birds received both an oral and injectable vaccine at the park’s hospital over the past couple of days. The rest will be vaccinated soon, zoo officials said.

Certain Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds – Sunflower may contain Salmonella

At least the seeds were recalled before someone got sick – unless there are sick people and regulators aren’t saying. They also aren’t saying if the testing was done by government or the company or who knows else. Or saying where the seed originated.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds Ltd. are warning the public not to consume the Mumm’s brand Sprouting Seeds described below because the product may be contaminated withSalmonella.

The affected product, Mumm’s brand Sprouting Seeds – Sunflower, are sold in 75g packages bearing UPC 7 73295 07582 3 and lot # SF2020.

This product is known to have been distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario and may have been distributed nationally.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

The importer, Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds Ltd., Parkside, SK, is voluntarily recalling the affected product from the marketplace. The CFIA is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall.

Safest food in world; US seed type testifies

“We have the safest food supply in the world. Despite the listeria outbreak, the sheer volume of produce, fresh or processed, that is consumed by the American public with little or no incidence is testimony to that fact.”

That according to Pete Suddarth, product development and field director of customer relations for Abbott & Cobb Inc., Feasterville, Pa.

Testify. Fact. Sounds a little spiritual (appropriate since so much of food safety is faith-based).

The Packer reports that food safety has become a major focus of seed companies and they work to adapt their products to a changing environment and increased market demands.

The rest of the story was about disease resistance, quality and yield, although Art Abbott, president of Abbott & Cobb, said the firm is working on reducing the heavy netting on cantaloupes to make them less susceptible to moisture absorption. This trait would help to reduce possible pathogen infections.

May reduce. May.

Can you seed types do anything about sprout seeds?

Where’s the data? Chia seeds all the rage, but are they microbiologically safe?

The Food Network, which always trumpets porn over safety, is jumping on the chia seed gush-fest.

But we can’t find any safety data.

Chapman wrote about it last month, the UK Food Standards Agency has at least asked for comment before approving chia seed as a food, and the rest is gush.

It’s one thing to sprout seed on a Mr. T head; it’s another to put it in a shake. Are there food grade standards for edible chia? If it’s anything like sprouts, the seeds are the problem, originating who-knows-where, and with a potential to wreak microbiological havoc.

J.M. Hirsch, the national food editor for The Associated Press, writes for the Food Network blog that, “chia seeds — which are a relative of sage — resemble poppy seeds, but have a nuttier, less assertive flavor. They have gobs of fiber and a fair amount of protein.

"The seeds were a staple of the Aztecs, who roasted and ground the seeds, then mixed them with water to form a porridge or a meal for making cakes.

"Chia seeds’ reputation for providing sustained energy — as well as plenty of nutrients — more recently have turned them into the darling of the fitness world.

"They also have shown up in a growing number of products in natural foods shops, from protein bars and baked goods to drinks such as kombucha.”

And so on. It’s up to proponents to provide the microbiological data to support safety.

14 now confirmed ill from E. coli O26 in Jimmy John’s sprouts

A total of 14 people have been infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O26 from 6 states in the fifth outbreak involving sprouts served on Jimmy John’s sandwiches in the past four years

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control report the number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Iowa (5), Missouri (3), Kansas (2), Michigan (2), Arkansas (1), and Wisconsin (1).

Two ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

Preliminary results of the epidemiologic and traceback investigations indicate eating raw clover sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants is the likely cause of this outbreak. Preliminary traceback information has identified a common lot of clover seeds used to grow clover sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurant locations where ill persons ate. FDA and states conducted a traceback that identified two separate sprouting facilities; both used the same lot of seed to grow clover sprouts served at these Jimmy John’s restaurant locations. On February 10, 2012, the seed supplier initiated notification of sprouting facilities that received this lot of clover seed to stop using it. Investigations are ongoing to identify other locations that may have sold clover sprouts grown from this seed lot.

Based on previous outbreaks associated with sprouts, investigation findings have demonstrated that sprout seeds might become contaminated in several ways. They could be grown with contaminated water or improperly composted manure fertilizer. They could be contaminated with feces from domestic or wild animals, or with runoff from animal production facilities, or by improperly cleaned growing or processing equipment. Seeds also might become contaminated during harvesting, distribution, or storage. Many clover seeds are produced for agricultural use, so they might not be processed, handled, and stored as human food would. Conditions suitable for sprouting the seed also permit bacteria that might be present on seeds to grow and multiply rapidly.

Earlier this week, William Keene, senior epidemiologist at Oregon Public Health Services, told The Packer that problems with sprouts originate with how they’re produced.

“It’s a generic problem, not a this-guy-was-doing-something-wrong problem. The conditions for generating sprouts commercially are almost like designing a process to grow bacteria. It’s wet, it’s not too cold. The sprouts grow luxuriantly and so do the bacteria.”

Trevor Suslow, an extension research specialist at the University of California-Davis, said it’s critical for regulators, industry representatives and academics drafting the FDA rule on sprouts to address seeds.

“I am not sure it will include seed production. Based on an outline, they were starting at the seed distributor, which is not adequate to protect the public. I hope they’ll put this back in….It appears to be very difficult to keep seed that has some low level of contamination from being introduced into the sprout production stream.”

Sprouted seed firms should improve safety — EU watchdog

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.

Secret of safe sprouts is in the seeds

The secret to keeping sprouts free of foodborne pathogens lies in industry’s intense attention to cleanliness of seeds.

"Once seeds have germinated, it’s too late. Sprouts are extremely complex structures with a forest-like root system that conceals microorganisms. Just a few E. coli cells can grow to a substantial population during germination and sprouting, and it’s very difficult to get rid of them all," said Hao Feng, a University of Illinois associate professor of food and bioprocess engineering.

Feng’s study is the cover story of the August 2011 issue of the Journal of Food Science. Two other papers that detail his work with sprouts will appear in upcoming issue of that journal and in the Journal of Food Protection.

In his experiments, Feng used both the FDA-recommended dose of chlorine to kill microorganisms and a new sanitizer that was a combination of surfactant and organic acid. He used a laser-scanning confocal microscope to look at micro-slices of seeds, then employed computer software to get a three-dimensional view of their surface structure. This allowed him to calculate each seed’s surface roughness.

Although E. coli could be eliminated on the alfalfa seeds because of their relatively smooth surface, broccoli and radish seeds have rough surfaces. Their texture renders these rougher seeds more susceptible to the attachment of pathogens and makes these microorganisms very difficult to remove, he said.

Feng assured consumers that sprouts are carefully tested for the presence of pathogens. "When there is one positive result, the entire batch is thrown out," he said.

Feng said this research demonstrates the importance of eliminating all pathogens on seeds before sprouting.

"The food industry must maintain very strict control in the sprout production process, focusing on the cleanliness of seeds and expending money and effort on prevention. Then consumers can be assured that these nutritious food products are safe to eat," Feng said.

But with no food safety marketing at retail, how do consumers know which sprouts came from safe(erer) seeds?

EU to lift ban on Egyptian sprout seeds after E. coli scare devastation, no safety evidence provided

Why are outbreaks of foodborne illness, like when 53 are killed and 4,400 sickened from eating sprouts produced in Germany from Egyptian seeds, referred to in media reports as ‘scares.’

This wasn’t a scare, it was a sprout shitstorm. Neither the first nor last.

Afrique en ligne reports the European Union will soon lift a ban on Egyptian sprout seeds after an EU delegation, which just wrapped up a visit to Egypt, produces a report in about 10 days.

Egypt’s Agriculture Export Council chairman, Sherif Al-Beltaguy stated that the national reports from agricultural and health authorities on seeds in Egypt were good and that the EU delegation found them acceptable.

Egypt had denied responsibility for the E.coli outbreak, saying the suspected batch dated back to November 2009 and contained dried seeds, arguing the bacteria could not have survived for so long.

I look forward to some sort of data, especially E. coli testing of germinated seeds.

German E. coli farm reopens, but is risk contained

The farm at the epicenter of the German sprout storm that has killed 53 and sickened over 4,000 from E. coli O104 is sparkling clean to reopen after testing and removal of all fenugreek seeds.

But as science-types have pointed out, the farm may function with the clarity and cleanliness of Marie Antoinette’s but that won’t prevent future outbreaks if the seeds themselves are contaminated.

As reported by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), despite the epidemic curve’s trending down, the outbreak can’t be considered over. The ultimate source — the contaminated seeds from which salad sprouts were grown — has been so widely distributed that no one really knows where they have gone or for how long they might remain for sale. One prediction, based on the probable package labeling, is that they could remain on shelves for 3 more years.

Wired magazine reported the first wave of cases, in Germany in May, arose from a firm that grew and sold sprouts at wholesale. The sprouts from that farm would subsequently be linked to 41 separate clusters of cases; all of them could be traced back to that facility’s sprouts, re-sold as a produce item somewhere in Europe.

A second wave, in France in June, initially confounded investigators. Out of those 16 cases, 11 had attended the same event. They did eat sprouts there — but not sprouts from the German farm. Instead, the sprouts had been grown by the event’s catering firm, from seeds the company had bought at an everyday garden center.

That shifted the focus from the German farm’s practices to the seeds that both the farm and the caterer used. The German farm sold two blends of grown sprouts, spicy (grown from fenugreek and radish seeds and black and brown lentils) and mild (fenugreek and alfalfa seeds, adzuki beans and lentils). The French caterer had used three seed types: fenugreek, mustard and rocket (or roquette; what Americans call arugula). The only type in common with both companies and all the mixtures was fenugreek.

That discovery sent EU investigators in pursuit of fenugreek seeds back down the European food chain, in a rapid-fire search that deployed personnel from eight countries’ food agencies as well as the ECDC, World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. They drafted a detailed 4-page questionnaire that fed data into Excel spreadsheets and a relational database. They crunched (and crunched and crunched) the numbers, and this is what emerged:

All of the seeds came from a single shipment that left a port in Egypt almost 2 years earlier, on Nov. 24, 2009.

The seeds took a tortuous path. That initial shipment — which was immense, 15,000 kg (33,000 lbs) — was containerized at the port of Damietta in Egypt, shipped by boat to Antwerp in Belgium, went by barge to Rotterdam in the Netherlands where it passed customs, and then was trucked to Germany. There, an importer broke up the shipment:
10,500 kg to a single German distributor;
3,550 kg to nine other German companies;
375 kg to a Spanish company;
250 kg to an Austrian distributor that sold the entire lot to a single Austrian company;
and 400 kg to a company in England.

The German importer broke up the 10,500-kg shipment into multiple lots. Only 75 kg ended up at the German farm that sparked the first wave of illness. The rest went to 16 other companies. One of those 16 broke its shipment up further, selling the seeds on to 70 additional companies: 54 in Germany, 16 in 11 other countries within the EU.

A new report details the complexities of the E. coli O104 outbreak investigation. Thanks to Albert Amgar in France for sending it along.

Source food from safe sources; including seeds and other inputs.