Saturday, June 25, 2011


It was bound to happen. No sooner do you think an outbreak is over, when it isn't over. It looks like the super-toxic strain of E.coli bacteria that was traced to sprouts grown in Germany, may also have cropped up in sprouts grown in France.

But the French (who saw what slow action did in Germany) are acting much more quickly than the Germans did - and hopefully not fingering the wrong culprit. Not only have sprouted seeds been identified as the suspect food item, but investigators have found that all but one of the people who are ill attended a charity event at a children's play center in a suburb of Bordeaux at which they ate gazpacho garnished with sprouts.
True, the German and French E.coli strains haven't been conclusively matched as yet (it takes a while), and other less-lethal E.coli have been known to turn up in sprouted seeds (as well as other foods) as well. In fact, there were at least 3,500 cases of E.coli reported last year in the EU, with some 93 of these in France (though not all may be linked to food). And there was a case of E.coli contaminated frozen hamburger meat in northern France just about a week ago (investigators say the two cases are not linked).

But what makes one suspect that this French outbreak and the German one might be linked is the high incidence of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) complications with kidney failure among adults who are ill. Only 8 illnesses have been reported in France so far, but of these, apparently 5 (or, 7 - depending on which news report you read) are hospitalized with life-threatening HUS. Even if we assume that the actual number of illnesses is much greater, this is clearly an unusually toxic E.coli - like the E.coli 0104:H4 that turned up in Northern Germany this spring. I hope not.

But if it is, what does this mean? It means that the bacteria was/is most likely in seeds themselves (although they are different kinds of sprouts). That is, the contamination did not come from water used by sprout growers for irrigation or washing, and the cause was not some bacteria-carrying worker or unsanitary conditions at the sprout grower's in Germany. I imagine that this grower is very relieved.

But it can also mean that there is more to come...We have not heard the end of this yet. Until the next post..

To your good health,

No comments: