/ 10 June 2011

E. coli: It’s the sprouts, says Germany

E. Coli: It's The Sprouts

New data shows that bean sprouts are the most likely source of the outbreak of E. coli that has killed 30 people so far, all but one of them in Germany, the country’s health authorities said on Friday.

More than a thousand sample tests focusing on bean sprouts have been taken so far, and although none has tested positive yet for the bacteria, Germany’s centre for disease control said studies could identify them as the source.

“It’s the bean sprouts,” Reinhard Burger, head of the Robert Koch Institute, told a news conference. The vegetables are popular in Germany, where they are served in most salad bars and often in sandwiches.

Many of the near 3 000 people taken ill so far with what starts as stomach bug symptoms, face uncertainty over whether they will develop haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which destroys red blood cells and causes severe kidney problems.

“It is very satisfying to present this discovery today [Friday], to be able to isolate the cause and source of the infection,” Burger added. “It is the result of intensive cooperation between German health and food authorities.”

The investigation has focused on an organic sprout farm in the northern state of Lower Saxony, which has been shut down.

“People who consumed [bean] sprouts were nine times more likely to have bloody diarrhoea than those who did not,” Burger added. “The outbreak is not over.” – Reuters