Epi doesn’t count; my sprouts are safe

From the continual trashing of the power of epidemiology files, David Scharf, owner of Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, implicated in an E. coli O121 outbreak that has sickened at least 10 people, said state health officials jumped the gun pointing the finger at his business.

“I find that it is very ambiguous to say that my product is bad,” Scharf told The Spokesman-Review.

jimmy.john's.sproutsHe said he tests his sprouts before they leave the warehouse and also tests the spent water, according to federal rules. “I have documentation stating my sprouts are good.”

Officials should keep quiet until they know for certain what the source of the infection is, Scharf added.

“It’s kind of sad that we’re going to put the cart before the horse, really,” he said.

I test and hold product for E. coli and salmonella before I ship. Until they show me a test result I’m not recalling anything.”

Evergreen was singled out in similar investigation in 2011 when the Food and Drug Administration demanded it voluntarily recall products as a salmonella outbreak unfolded, sickening 25 people in five states. Test results showed no bacteria was found in the Evergreen produce at that time, but the FDA stuck by its conclusion the business was the origin of the outbreak.

The clover sprouts suspected in the current E. coli O121 outbreak were eaten in sandwiches at Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches in King and Spokane counties, two Pita Pit locations in Spokane County, and Daanen’s Deli and a Jimmy John’s in Kootenai County, Washington state health officials said. The restaurants voluntarily suspended serving sprouts, officials said.

10 sick from E. coli O121 outbreak linked to raw clover sprouts; Jimmy John’s again linked; keep eating those sandwiches, Kansas State

The late great Bill Keene predicted this when Jimmy John’s switched to clover sprouts.

An outbreak linked to raw sprouts in the U.S. that sickened 140 people occurred between November 2010 into 2011, involving sandwich franchise, Jimmy John’s. The owner of the Montana Jimmy John’s outlet, Dan Stevens, expressed confidence in his sprouts claiming that because the sprouts were locally grown they would not be contaminated, although the source of the contaminated sprouts had not yet been identified. By the end of December 2010 a sprout supplier, Tiny Greens Farm, was implicated in the outbreak. Jimmy John’s owner, John Liautaud, responded by stating the sandwich chain would replace alfalfa sprouts with clover sprouts since they were allegedly easier to clean. However, a week earlier a separate outbreak had been identified in Washington and Oregon in which eight people were infected with salmonella after eating sandwiches containing clover sprouts from a Jimmy John’s restaurant. This retailer was apparently not aware of the risks associated with sprouts, or even outbreaks associated with his franchisees.

amy.sprouts.guelph.05Now it has happened again.

Washington state health officials are warning consumers not to eat raw clover sprouts from an Idaho producer that have been linked to an outbreak of E. coli infections in the Northwest.

The sprouts have been linked to seven confirmed and three probable cases of E. coli O121 illnesses in Washington and Idaho.

Five of those patients were hospitalized; there have been no deaths.

Results from initial investigations indicate a strong link to eating raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, LLC of Idaho.

Sprouts were eaten in sandwiches at several food establishments including Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches locations in King and Spokane counties, as well as two Pita Pit locations in Spokane County, and Daanen’s Deli as well as a Jimmy John’s location in Kootenai County.

The restaurants where the cases reported eating raw clover sprouts have voluntarily suspended serving sprouts.

The producer also distributed sprouts around the northwest to other restaurants, as well as retail grocery stores where consumers may buy them for home consumption.

Salmonella internalization in mung bean sprouts and pre- and postharvest intervention methods in a hydroponic system

Mung bean sprouts, typically consumed raw or minimally cooked, are often contaminated with pathogens. Internalized pathogens pose a high risk because conventional sanitization methods are ineffective for their inactivation. The studies were performed (i) to understand the potential of internalization of Salmonella in mung bean sprouts under conditions where the irrigation water was contaminated and (ii) to determine if pre- and postharvest intervention methods are effective in inactivating the internalized pathogen. Mung bean sprouts were grown hydroponically and Bean_sproutsexposed to green fluorescence protein–tagged Salmonella Typhimurium through maturity. One experimental set received contaminated water daily, while other sets received contaminated water on a single day at different times. For preharvest intervention, irrigation water was exposed to UV, and for postharvest intervention–contaminated sprouts were subjected to a chlorine wash and UV light. Harvested samples were disinfected with ethanol and AgNO3 to differentiate surface-associate pathogens from the internalized ones. The internalized Salmonella Typhimurium in each set was quantified using the plate count method. Internalized Salmonella Typhimurium was detected at levels of 2.0 to 5.1 log CFU/g under all conditions. Continuous exposure to contaminated water during the entire period generated significantly higher levels of Salmonella Typhimurium internalization than sets receiving contaminated water for only a single day (P < 0.05). Preintervention methods lowered the level of internalized Salmonella by 1.84 log CFU/g (P < 0.05), whereas postintervention methods were ineffective in eliminating internalized pathogens. Preintervention did not completely inactivate bacteria in sprouts and demonstrated that the remaining Salmonella Typhimurium in water became more resistant to UV. Because postharvest intervention methods are ineffective, proper procedures for maintaining clean irrigation water must be followed throughout production in a hydroponic system.

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 5, May 2014, pp. 696-863 , pp. 752-757(6)

Ge, Chongtao1; Rymut, Susan1; Lee, Cheonghoon2; Lee, Jiyoung3

What’s wrong with Australian recall notices: Sprout Garden alfalfa and onion sprouts

The food safety recall notices issued by Food Standards Agency – Australia/New Zealand don’t say much.

Below is the notice but what I’d want to know is: what kind of E. coli; how was it found; is anyone sick; should people eat raw sprouts?

AlfaOnionFrontToo much for the communication geniuses on taxpayer salaries.

Belmore Bean Factory Pty Ltd has recalled Sprout Garden Alfalfa and Onion Sprouts from the Sydney Markets (Flemington) and fruit and vegetable stores in NSW due to E.coli contamination. Food products contaminated with E.coli may cause illness if consumed. Consumers should not eat this product and should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice. 

Organic Sprouts Salad recalled for Salmonella in Australia

Anyone sick? How was the Salmonella detected? More Australian mysteries.

Energetic Greens has recalled Organic Sprouts Salad (Broccoli, sunflower and radish) from local greengrocers and IGA stores in northern NSW (New South Wales)nand the sprouts.aust.salm.mar.14Mullumbimby, Bangalow and Glorious Organic Farmers Markets due to Salmonella contamination. Food products contaminated with Salmonella may cause illness if consumed. Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice. 

Was it thermometer-verified 165? Were there sprouts on it? Obama gets a burger

President Obama escaped the White HouseCoupe Burger.menu with 5 young people and they hit up a very cool, neighborhood burger joint, according to TMZ, with almost no advanced notice. The 5 young people are all working on the Affordable Care Act.

At the time we posted this, they were all still at The Coupe in Columbia Heights.
We’re told Obama is enjoying a Coupe Burger — “Our classic with fried onion rings, sauteed mushrooms and sharp cheddar.  And get this … we were told fries, but turns out the side is spinach.


Sprouts the stealth ingredient

There’s some fast-food workers strike in the U.S., so, according to The Braiser, Umami Burger decided to serve a ‘money’s no object’ burger.

The New York City outpost of LA’s burger chain Umami Burger announced on Facebook a new burger on the menu, called “M.N.O. (Money’s No umami-burgerObject).” It costs $75. Its Facebook description:

Imagine all that dry-aged Bryan Flannery wagyu beef, vintage wine port reduction, freshly shaved white Alba truffles and oh yeah, that Grade A Hudson Valley foie gras.

What I care about is the heaping helping of vomit-inducing sprouts on the burger.

What about the sprouts? ‘Organic’ cafe misled with veggie burger

Cancer sucks. So does foodborne illness, like for the 53 people, primarily women, who died in Germany in 2011 from eating raw sprouts.

A holistic wellness coach who says she felt “dirty” after eating a non-organic veggie burger at a Byron Bay cafe has apologized after an online “rant” about the food she was served.

‘Wellness warrior’ Jessica Ainscough vented on her blog after eating a burger she believed was 100 per cent organic, only to later discover it was organic.burger.jun.13‘not totally’ chemical-free.

The holistic health coach, who was in Byron Bay last week, follows a strict organic diet after overcoming cancer without using modern medicine.

In a June 18 post titled ‘BEWARE OF ORGANIC CAFES THAT LIE TO US’, Ms Ainscough said she was ‘pissed off’ that Manna Haven Cafe falsely claimed to be ‘vegan, raw and organic’.

The 26-year-old said she had initially been excited to find somewhere ‘safe’ for lunch and ordered the veggie Burger thinking it was organic.

The not-for-profit cafe’s menu describes its Big Burger as being ‘cancer fighting rather than cancer causing’ and vegan, low glycaemic index and a superfood.

“If a cafe claims to be organic and charge prices that reflect this, we should be able to trust that what they’re serving us is just that. Otherwise, it’s false advertising and on par with green washing.”

One of the cafe’s founders Anita Carvill saying she was shocked by the backlash.

“There was nowhere that said the burger was 100 per cent organic so I’m not sure how she got that impression,” Ms Carvill said.

“The options on the sign are just options, there is no false advertising.

Ms. Ainscough respoinded that, “The word ‘organic’ is the green light that tells us it’s safe to eat. It doesn’t matter if some of the ingredients are organic – if they’re mixed with conventional ingredients the whole dish is rendered poisonous to those of us who have to be so pedantic for the sake of our health and lives.”

Then avoid the sprouts. They tend to make people barf.

Produce, food safety culture and Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt toured Sydney Harbour and tried Vegemite, first time for the Missouri native.

I got to hang out at Darling Harbor in Sydney and chat with some Australian produce folks; some wanted to talk more, some wanted to throw me in the get.that.finger.out.of.your.ear.airplaneHarbour with concrete shoes.

Amy, my lovely and loving partner, quipped, “a typical Powell talk. Now get Sorenne ready and let’s go” or something like that.

(She’s actually a great counselor for my whines, anxieties and insecurities.)

I was speaking at the Australian Produce Marketing Association gabfest about food safety culture stuff.

I asked the delegates if they enjoyed the raw sprouts on their salad the night before, stated how many times I go to food safety things and get served raw sprouts (even in my own university) and suggested why that may not be a great idea.

(30 minutes after I was done talking, yet another sprout recall, this time Salmonella in Canada.)

I told them how we took the kid out to get some chips along Darling Harbor, and since they were served with aioli, I asked the server if the aioli was made with raw eggs (because Australia has a raw egg problem, most recently 140 sick in Canberra). She didn’t know but asked the chef, and the answer was yes.

I asked for tomato sauce instead (ketchup).

I complimented the Expo Center for having paper towels in the bathrooms, a rarity in Australia, but that the water flow was almost non-existent and two-darling.harbor.jun.13out-of-three sinks did not respond to the hand activation (vigorous water flow, rubbing and the friction of drying with paper towel are the key components of good handwashing).

I told them about a whole bunch of outbreaks, and one grower said I used scare tactics, and I said 33 people dying from eating rock melon (cantaloupe) wasn’t really a scare tactic, just what’s out there.

Like the 99 now sick from Hepatitis A in organic frozen berries.

I talked about food safety culture, tools like infosheets, repeated, rapid, reliable and relevant messages, about Frank and Chris and Ben and Amy and how they had all influenced my thoughts on the topic, but that to really seal the culture deal, growers and retailers had to brag about it.

I talked about the cantaloupe growers in California who have adopted some mandatory audit-inspection things, and all the problems and outbreaks that happen with places that have audits and inspections, and that big boys and girls take care of their own problems and get help when they need it.

I said how disappointed I was that as a consumer, there will be no label on these inspected cantaloupe, so as a consumer, I have no way of knowing whether a particular grower had even thought about microbiological food safety or was any good at it.

I tried to be triumphant and said, this isn’t a crisis, it’s an opportunity, for all you good Australian growers to get ahead of the curve, put in place the data collection and risk management efforts, the food safety culture, and go brag about it.

All the usual stuff.

And largely, the usual response.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to chat with growers and retailers – I always liked that – and thankful for the opportunity to clarify in my cobwebs a few things about what I should be doing.

But I’m no Brad Pitt.

I don’t want to be.

And get your finger out of the Vegemite. You don’t know where that finger’s been.


Kroger stops selling sprouts

Following WalMart two years ago and numerous food service firms several years ago, The Kroger Co. – a supermarket chain that operates a huge number of stores, including the Dillons in Manhattan, Kansas — today announced its decision to no longer sell sprouts due to its potential food safety risk.

“After a thorough, science-based review, we have decided to voluntarily discontinue selling fresh sprouts,” said Payton Pruett, Kroger’s vice president of food safety. “Testing and sanitizing by the growers and safe food handling by the consumer are the critical steps to protect against foodborne illness. Sprouts present a unique challenge because pathogens may reside inside of the seeds where they cannot be reached by the currently available processing interventions. Out of an abundance of caution, the Kroger Family of Stores will no longer sell fresh sprouts or procure other foods that are produced on the same equipment as sprouts.”

Pruett added that the company is open to revisiting this policy when new technologies and practices show that farmers can consistently produce sprout seeds that do not internalize pathogens, and when sprout processing environments can be enhanced for safety and cleanliness. 

Deliveries of sprouts into Kroger distribution centers and stores will be discontinued on October 22, 2012.

Kroger employs more than 339,000 associates who serve customers in 2,425 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s.

After the German E. coli O104 outbreak that killed 53 people last year and sickened over 4,000, along with the ridiculous public statements and blatant disregard for public safety taken by sandwich artist Jimmy John’s in the U.S., we reviewed the sprout-related literature and concluded:

• raw sprouts are a well-documented source of foodborne illness;

• risk communication about raw sprouts has been inconsistent; and,

• continued outbreaks question effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance.

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://bites.ksu.edu/sprouts-associated-outbreaks.

Erdozain, M.S., Allen, K.J., Morley, K.A. and Powell, D.A. 2012. Failures in sprouts-related risk communication. Food Control. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.08.022



Nutritional and perceived health benefits have contributed to the increasing popularity of raw sprouted seed products. In the past two decades, sprouted seeds have been a recurring food safety concern, with at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people. A compilation of selected publications was used to yield an analysis of the evolving safety and risk communication related to raw sprouts, including microbiological safety, efforts to improve production practices, and effectiveness of communication prior to, during, and after sprout-related outbreaks. Scientific investigation and media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks has led to improved production guidelines and public health enforcement actions, yet continued outbreaks call into question the effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance. Raw sprouts remain a high-risk product and avoidance or thorough cooking are the only ways that consumers can reduce risk; even thorough cooking messages fail to acknowledge the risk of cross-contamination. Risk communication messages have been inconsistent over time with Canadian and U.S. governments finally aligning their messages in the past five years, telling consumers to avoid sprouts. Yet consumer and industry awareness of risk remains low. To minimize health risks linked to the consumption of sprout products, local and national public health agencies, restaurants, retailers and producers need validated, consistent and repeated risk messaging through a variety of sources.