Sunday, June 5, 2011


I have just returned from being interviewed on KRON 4 Television in San Francisco (my second time there this year). The topic was the European E.coli outbreak. Since this is an emerging situation, I made sure that I caught up with the latest news before I left the house for the studio. But wouldn't it. About 5 minutes before the interview aired the news came out. It is now suspected that the outbreak was caused by bean sprouts, served in Hamburg area restaurants. It wasn't the cucumbers, tomatoes or lettuce after all. It was a legume. At least I had blogged the possibility last night - and identified one of the restaurants (see previous blog). It helps to be a step ahead of the "breaking news."

Besides, I can't say I am surprised. What was that famous line is the movie Casablanca after Major Strasser has been shot? "Round up the usual suspects." We tend to go for the obvious first. In this case of deadly food borne illness, the usual suspects were cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes. Most people eat them. So, if people who are ill are asked what they ate in the last few days, they are likely to mention these. Who is likely to say" "Oh, and there were these tiny sprouts in the salad..." That's why it took a while - far too long - to come up with the culprit food.

This is not the first time that a misidentification has happened in the investigation of a food-linked outbreak. Remember the case in the large Salmonella outbreak in the U.S. in 2008 when those poor tomatoes were blamed for everything, and it really turned out to be Jalapeno and Serrano peppers - and only "maybe" tomatoes as well? This isn't the only instance of the wrong food being identified.

To your good health!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The assumption that it would have been lettuce, tomatoes or cucumbers that made you sick is not unreasonable. Often it is one of those ingredients that carries the bacteria and as you say, they are what you remember. Same old lesson, be careful about eating salads when dining out, and avoid salad bars at fast food restaurants like the plague.