Further to our Information Update 2011/11 of 2nd June, the E coli outbreak in Germany associated with sprouting seeds appears to be diminishing. The outbreak has affected 3700 people and 39 have died following infection. The investigations carried out to date implicate a new strain of E coli, 0104 and this strain has only been found in humans.
Over the weekend a new outbreak was identified in France which again appears to be associated with the consumption of sprouting seeds. The numbers of those affected is quite small at the moment, with 13 people ill, eight of whom are seriously ill in hospital. The bacteria identified in at least 2 cases is again E coli 0104. (For information this is a separate outbreak from that which is affecting children in the north of France which is associated with beef burgers).
The illness is affecting people in a very small area of Bordeaux in France, the French Authorities have responded by implicating the company that sells the seeds that were used, Thompson and Morgan, which is based in the UK. This allegation is denied by the seed company who are co-operating with the Food Standards Agency in the investigation of the outbreak.
At the time of writing the Food Standards Agency reports that there are no cases of such illness in the UK however they have issued the following guidance: sprouting seeds such as alfalfa, mung beans (usually known as beansprouts) and fenugreek should be thoroughly cooked until steaming hot through-out before being eaten, sprouting seeds should not be eaten raw. They go on to advise that equipment used for sprouting seeds should be cleaned thoroughly after use and that you should always wash your hands after handling seeds for planting or sprouting.
The loss of life noted above is clearly a tragic matter and should prompt all who are involved in the food and catering sectors to review their food safety systems. The objective being to have a robust system to withstand the risk posed by this organism.
Where we have provided your Food Safety & Hygiene systems, full operation of them will stand you in good stead. If you feel you need more input in this area and need help, do contact us on 08456 446006.
We will continue to monitor the situation and advise you of any significant developments.