Monday, June 27, 2011


There is more and more conjecture that the huge German outbreak of food borne illness and the more recent French one could be linked. Both have been traced to sprouted seeds. Both involve an unusually toxic strain of the bacterium, E.coli. In the case of the German outbreak, centered around Hamburg and hopefully winding down, it is now reported that 47 people have died, almost all in Germany. In the case of the French one, no fatalities have been reported as yet, but seven people are still seriously ill and hospitalized, one of them in intensive care and one having treatment for kidney problems.

It is highly unlikely that these geographically separated outbreaks are linked through means such as contaminated irrigation or rinsing water, wildlife, improperly cleaned equipment, or improperly composted manure. But there are two ways that they could be linked (note: the link has not yet been proven). The possibility being focused on by the French authorities is that both the German and the French growers used contaminated seeds, probably from the same British seed company (see 3 posts for June 25). If so, that would follow a pattern that has caused nationwide sprout-linked outbreaks in the U.S. where several sprout growers with contamination problems had all used contaminated seeds from the same source.

However, there is also at least one more possibility: a worker at the French grower's could have had a case of the German E.coli 0104, and become a carrier, later contaminating the French sprouts. This can happen. People may no longer have symptoms of illness (or, may never have been really ill - "asymptomatic carriage") but continue to shed the E.coli bacteria for several weeks, or even months afterwards and pass it to others directly, or indirectly through surfaces or food - such as sprouts.

So if the two outbreaks are linked, which is it? We'll find out soon..

To your good health,

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