Sprouts still suck, even with social amplification

I know lots about the social amplification of risk as promoted by Kasperson, et al., but I’m not sure the author a new paper examining that theory in Germany’s 2011 E. coli O104 outbreak involving sprouts does.

sprout.santa.barf.xmasLots of risk communication background, not much in the way of what to do. But, you can decide.

The social amplification of risk framework highlights the role which the news media play in risk communication by interacting with other agents in amplifying risk. However, the precise ways in which the media and other social agents actually amplify risks in public debates are unclear. In this article we draw on insights from the sociology of news to examine whether and to what extent social agents and news media amplify an emerging health risk. We use the debate about the Escherichia coli outbreak in Germany in 2011 to examine three issues: the amount of risk reporting by news media and social agents in their function as news sources; their evaluation of risk; and how they contribute to the escalation of risk, also known as ripple effects. In this article we draw on data from a content analysis of press releases from public health authorities and affected stakeholders and of news items in leading German news media. We found that the affected stakeholders were amplifying the risk to the greatest extent. We also found that there was a shift over time in the use of dominant frames. At the start of the debate the risk was framed as a public health issue and linked to medical-scientific progress. As the debate developed, more attention was given to political and economic consequences of the outbreak and the original health risk event was layered by other risk-related events.

Social agents and news media as risk amplifiers: a case study on the public debate about the E. coli outbreak in Germany 2011

Health, Risk & Society, August 20, 2014

Juliana Raupp

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13698575.2014.950203

jimmy.john's.sproutsWe did our own take on the sprout-related literature a couple of years ago 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://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-8-1-14.xlsx.

Sprouts present a unique food safety challenge compared to other fresh produce, as the sprouting process provides optimal conditions for the growth and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria. The sprout industry, regulatory agencies, and the academic community have been collaborating to improve the microbiological safety of raw sprouts, including the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), establishing guidelines for safe sprout production, and chemical disinfection of seed prior to sprouting. However, guidelines and best practices are only as good as their implementation. The consumption of raw sprouts is considered high-risk, especially for young, elderly and immuno-compromised persons.

From November 2010 into 2011, an outbreak linked to raw sprouts in the U.S. and involving sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s sickened 140 people. This was the third sprout related outbreak involving this franchise, yet 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. 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.

In late December, 2011, less than one year after making the switch to clover sprouts, Jimmy John’s was linked to another sprout related outbreak, this time it was E.coli O26 in clover sprouts. In February 2012, sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s announced they were permanently removing raw clover sprouts from their menus. As of April 2012, the outbreak had affected 29 people across 11 states. Founder and chief executive, John Liautaud, attempted to appease upset customers through Facebook stating, “a lot of folks dig my sprouts, but I will only serve the best of the best. Sprouts were inconsistent and inconsistency does not equal the best.” He also informed them the franchise was testing snow pea shoots in a Campaign, Illinois store, although there is no mention regarding the “consistency” or safety of this choice.

sprout.apple.aug.14Despite the frequent need for sprout-based risk communication, messaging with industry and public stakeholders has been limited in effectiveness. In spite of widespread media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks, improved production guidelines, and public health enforcement actions, awareness of risk remains low. Producers, food service and government agencies need to provide consistent, evidence-based messages and, more importantly, actions. Information regarding sprout-related risks and food safety concerns should be available and accurately presented to producers, retailers and consumers in a manner that relies on scientific data and clear communications.

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

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004707?v=s5

Abstract

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 arecurring 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.

Sprouts still suck; Globe and Mail is wrong to blindly promote them, especially for school kids

In 2005, as I was flying from Toronto to Kansas City to hang out with the love of my life in Manhattan (Kansas) I’d met a couple of weeks before, over 700 people in Ontario (that’s in Canada) were sickened with Salmonella in raw mung bean sprouts.

sprout.apple.aug.14After the German E. coli O104 outbreak that killed 53 people in 2011and 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., I figured we really needed to publish something.

The basic conclusions:

• 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.

Sprouts present a unique food safety challenge compared to other fresh produce, as the sprouting process provides optimal conditions for the growth and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria. The sprout industry, regulatory agencies, and the academic community have been collaborating to improve the microbiological safety of raw sprouts, including the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), establishing guidelines for safe sprout production, and chemical disinfection of seed prior to sprouting. However, guidelines and best practices are only as good as their implementation. The consumption of raw sprouts is considered high-risk, especially for young, elderly and immuno-compromised persons (FDA, 2009).

But, leave it to Canada’s self-proclaimed paper of record to push sprouts on kids in their back-to-school lunch feature.

Nosestretcher alert: Australian food scientist says just wash raw sprouts, they’re safe and great choice

And why just pick on the Brits. Misuse of science by allegedly science-based agencies is rampant, owing to personal and political preferences.

dr_lisa_szaboAccording to the New South Wales Food Authority (that’s the state where Sydney is located, that’s in Australia), “Science plays an important role in everything we do here and as this week marks National Science Week across Australia, our scientists are getting in on the action and inviting you to learn about the important role science plays in food safety and protecting you from food poisoning.”

Chief Scientist Dr Lisa Szabo was online yesterday from 1pm to 2pm to bust some food furphies and give you the low down on any food safety myths (who writes this stuff?).

In response to a question, Dr. Liz wrote, “You’re right when you say sprouts are healthy, they are a great choice. Just be sure to wash them thoroughly as they can be contaminated as seeds as well as during growth and processing with bacteria such as E.coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.

“If you’re under 5, over 70, are pregnant or already have a low or compromised immune system its better to be safe than sorry and avoid any type of raw or lightly cooked sprouts.”

Nonsense.

You ain’t gonna wash bacteria off sprouts, especially if they are internalized in seed.

Raw sprouts are one of the few foods I won’t eat, yet they are ubiquitous in Australia.

jimmy.john's.sprouts 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

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004707?v=s5

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.

Still a failure to communicate and, says CDC, sprouts still suck

After a series of outbreaks associated with sprouts in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published guidelines in 1999 for sprouts producers to reduce the risk of contamination. The recommendations included treating seeds with an antimicrobial agent such as calcium hypochlorite solution and testing spent irrigation water for pathogens.

jimmy.john's.sproutsFrom 1998 through 2010, 33 outbreaks from seed and bean sprouts were documented in the United States, affecting 1330 reported persons. Twenty-eight outbreaks were caused by Salmonella, four by Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli, and one by Listeria. In 15 of the 18 outbreaks with information available, growers had not followed key FDA guidelines. In three outbreaks, however, the implicated sprouts were produced by firms that appeared to have implemented key FDA guidelines.

Although seed chlorination, if consistently applied, reduces pathogen burden on sprouts, it does not eliminate the risk of human infection. Further seed and sprouts disinfection technologies, some recently developed, will be needed to enhance sprouts safety and reduce human disease. Improved seed production practices could also decrease pathogen burden but, because seeds are a globally distributed commodity, will require international cooperation.

Outbreaks caused by sprouts, United States, 1998–2010: lessons learned and solutions needed

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, Volume: 11 Issue 8: July 30, 2014, Pages 635-644

DechetAmy M., HermanKaren M., Chen ParkerCary, TaorminaPeter, JohansonJoy, TauxeRobert V., and MahonBarbara E.

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/fpd.2013.1705

Raw sprouts are the poster child for failures in what academics call, risk communication.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.

sprout.santa.barf.xmasAbout 1999, graduate student Sylvanus Thompson started working with me on risk analysis associated with sprouts. He got his degree and went on to rock-star status in the food safety world with the implementation of the red-yellow-green restaurant inspection disclosure program with Toronto Public Health, but we never published anything.

I remember frantically flying to Kansas City to hang out with this girl in Manhattan (Kansas) I’d met a couple of weeks before, in the midst of the 2005 Ontario raw sprout outbreak that sickened over 700; Jen Tryon, now with Global News, interviewed me at the airport, with me wearing a K-State hockey shirt (that’s the joke; there is no hockey at K-State, and I was still employed by Guelph; and I was going to hang out with this girl).

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., I figured we really needed to publish something.

The basic conclusions:

• 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.

Sprouts present a unique food safety challenge compared to other fresh produce, as the sprouting process provides optimal conditions for the growth and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria. The sprout industry, regulatory agencies, and the academic community have been collaborating to improve the microbiological safety of raw sprouts, including the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), establishing guidelines for safe sprout production, and chemical disinfection of seed prior to sprouting. However, guidelines and best practices are only as good as their implementation. The consumption of raw sprouts is considered high-risk, especially for young, elderly and immuno-compromised persons (FDA, 2009).

Sol Erdozain, now a graduate student in psychology at Kansas State University, took the lead on this one. Kevin Allen, now a prof-type and hockey goon at the University of British Columbia who used to take great pleasure firing pucks off my head – even though he also a goalie himself – weighed in with his microbiology expertise, Katija Morley (nee Blaine) made our arguments more coherent, and I pestered everyone. Because I should have published something like this 12 years ago.

Writing is hard.

amy.sprouts.guelph.05From November 2010 into 2011, an outbreak linked to raw sprouts in the U.S. and involving sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s sickened 140 people. This was the third sprout related outbreak involving this franchise, yet 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. 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.

In late December, 2011, less than one year after making the switch to clover sprouts, Jimmy John’s was linked to another sprout related outbreak, this time it was E.coli O26 in clover sprouts. In February 2012, sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s announced they were permanently removing raw clover sprouts from their menus. As of April 2012, the outbreak had affected 29 people across 11 states. Founder and chief executive, John Liautaud, attempted to appease upset customers through Facebook stating, “a lot of folks dig my sprouts, but I will only serve the best of the best. Sprouts were inconsistent and inconsistency does not equal the best.” He also informed them the franchise was testing snow pea shoots in a Campaign, Illinois store, although there is no mention regarding the “consistency” or safety of this choice.

Despite the frequent need for sprout-based risk communication, messaging with industry and public stakeholders has been limited in effectiveness. In spite of widespread media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks, improved production guidelines, and public health enforcement actions, awareness of risk remains low. Producers, food service and government agencies need to provide consistent, evidence-based messages and, more importantly, actions. Information regarding sprout-related risks and food safety concerns should be available and accurately presented to producers, retailers and consumers in a manner that relies on scientific data and clear communications.

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

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004707?v=s5

Abstract

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.

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.