Saturday, June 11, 2011


Sprouts (sprouted seeds) have now caused the two largest known outbreaks of E.coli food borne illness. You could say that they are the deadliest food in the world. And, unfortunately, a little goes a long way in terms of making you ill.

In the summer of 1996, in Sakai, Japan, an estimated 12,680 were sickened and at least 11 people died from eating radish sprouts. Many where school-age children.

In the early summer of 2011, in northern Germany, at least 3100 people have been sickened and so far 31 have died, from eating bean sprouts. Hundreds remain critically ill, as the outbreak winds down. Although sprouts were the second suspect, and then dismissed, the authorities have now concluded that the outbreak did after all originate in organic sprouts grown on a farm in the northern German village of Bienenbuettel.

Just a few days ago, the Dutch recalled exported beet sprouts from three countries, because E.coli was found, but not by the vicious Hamburg strain. It was another pathogenic E.coli bacterium.

There have also been numerous sprout-linked outbreaks in the United States and Canada over the years, many of them in alfalfa sprouts which are the most popular in the U.S. Sprouts are commonly contaminated with not just various E.coli, but also Salmonella and even Listeria (see earlier post). The government-recommended treatment of seeds (not obligatory), is not used by all growers, and even when used, does not always work. Organically grown sprouts appear to be no safer than conventionally grown ones.

At the beginning of this year, sprouts headed my list of 5 foods I would not eat in 2011 (see post of January 3). They are still there.

To your good health!


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