In the midst of yet another sprouts recall (see Bill’s recent blog-post), I received an email from a concerned sprout grower.  I will freely admit that I feel for the people, and the businesses, involved in the manfacture or sale of food products (intrinsically risky or not) who are not the immediate source of a recalled or contaminated product.  This person had the following to say about his/her company’s sprout growing processes:

Alfalfa sprouts are healthy and contain a potload of vitamins. This re call involves a small grower with a few customers, here is the touchy part, you are recommending people do not eat them when there are many professional growers like ourselves who grow safe sprouts following the FDA Growing Guidelines.

We are inspected by the FDA, State and other persons. Accurate records are provided, kept and verified of the following, seed specifically grown for human consumption, handled properly, tested for salmonella and E Coli 0 157h7, then sanitized by the grower, rinsed and planted, after 48 hours, a sample of the irrigation water from all drums is tested for salmonella and E Coli 0157h7, with a Hold and Release Program, nothing gets delivered until we receive negative results.  Our sprouts are tested safe.  Now, why is there contaminated product out there from sprouters who are supposed to be following the same guidelines? Ask them.

At the risk of stating the obvious, my response to this particular grower is (1) keep up the good work because it will, hopefully, inure to the benefit of both yourself and your industry and (2) keep in mind that much good will, hopefully, soon come to sprout growers if they keep the perspective that this is an industry-wide issue/problem, not one that’s confined to a bad apple or two.  With the multiple outbreaks or recalls that have happened just this year–to say nothing of the last decade–viewing this issue/problem as "somebody else’s" will do no good.  It will only inhibit research and development and, as a result, keep Marler Clark in business.  

Ground beef is a case in point.  Bill Marler posted in December 2007 about the return of E. coli O157:H7.  See E. coli O157:H7–It’s Back, with A Vengeance.   For present purposes, the important point is not that E. coli and ground beef have enjoyed an incredible resurgence; its that the industry managed to corral the contamination problem for many years prior to 2007.  This happened only because the industry recognized that E. coli O157 was an industry-wide problem, not one associated only with a few rogue grind operations.