As we entered 2011, various types of sprouts had already been repeatedly linked with outbreaks of foodborne illness, particularly E. coli 157:H7 and Salmonella. 2010 came to a close with an outbreak of Salmonella tied to sprouts in the Pacific Northwest in December. At that time, lists of outbreaks tied to sprouts numbered in the dozens.
Then, after a few months of apparent quiet, all hell broke loose. Here in the U.S., in June, 2011, another entry was added to the list, with an outbreak of Salmonella that sickened 25 persons in 5 states: Idaho; Washington; Montana, North Dakota; and New Jersey. The illnesses were tied to Evergreen Produce, in Idaho.
At roughly the same time, an outbreak of unprecedented size and tragic proportion was unfolding in Europe, and Germany in particular. The May and June, 2011 outbreak of E. coli O104:H4 across Europe was eventually linked to sprouts. More than 4,300 people were sickened. The CDC reported that the outbreak included the unfathomable number of 852 people with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and attributed 32 deaths to HUS in the outbreak.
One would think the German sprout outbreak would serve as the final straw in a move toward sweeping reform in the sprout industry and the placement of warning labels on the product, right?