December 11, 2013
E. coli outbreak: French-German gov’t advise to avoid sprouts
Dutch and British health officials advised people to avoid raw sprouts and seeds today after scientists linked an outbreak of E. coli in France to a highly toxic one in Germany that has killed 43 people.
A British health safety expert said it was very unlikely to be pure coincidence that sprouted salad seeds have been fingered as the probable source of both outbreaks.
Seven people in Bordeaux remained hospitalized, French authorities said, with one still in intensive care, after being infected by the E.coli bacteria.
Another patient had left intensive care and been moved to a department specializing in kidney disorders, while the condition of a 78-year-old woman had improved to stable from serious.
"The condition of the 78-year-old person has stabilized since yesterday," regional health authorities said in a statement, which a medical source said was a sign that she was improving.
French authorities say at least two of those affected have been found to have the same rare strain of the infection that has infected thousands in Germany.
"We've got a new emergent infection that has rarely been described before and it's cropped up twice in the same food product," said Paul Hunter, an E. coli expert and professor of public health at Britain's University of East Anglia. "That cannot be coincidence."
Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) said sprouted seeds such as alfalfa, mung beans – usually known as beansprouts – and fenugreek should only be eaten if they have been cooked thoroughly "until steaming hot throughout".
"They should not be eaten raw," it said in a statement.
Initial investigations into the outbreak of E. coli in France have suggested a possible link to sprouting seeds from a British company, Thompson & Morgan. The firm has said it is cooperating with investigations but it does not believe its seeds are the cause of the French outbreak.
Health authorities in Germany have linked the epidemic there to contaminated bean sprouts and shoots from a German organic farm sold to consumers and restaurants for eating in salads.
Latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which monitors disease in the region, show that at least 3,688 people have been infected in Germany and a scattering of cases across Europe linked to the same outbreak.
Germany has recorded 42 deaths so far, and one person died in Sweden after becoming infected during a visit to Germany.
The FSA said that to date, no cases of food poisoning have been reported in Britain linked to the outbreak in France.
The Dutch ministry of health said it was advising people not to eat raw fenugreek, mustard seeds and other sprouts. Nine cases of E. coli with direct links to the German outbreak were recorded in the Netherlands but Dutch officials said so far no-one else has become ill.