Associated Press reporter Tomislav Skaro reported from Hamburg this morning that the Lower Saxony agriculture ministry was sending an alert Sunday warning people to stop eating the sprouts, which are often used in mixed salads, ministry spokesman Gert Hahne told The Associated Press.
“Bean sprouts have been identified as the product that likely caused the outbreak,” Hahne said. “Many restaurants that suffered from an E. coli outbreak had those sprouts delivered.”
Hahne said the sprouts were grown on a farm in Lower Saxony in northern Germany. He did not elaborate but planned a news conference later Sunday. Hahne said while official test results have not yet conclusively shown that the Lower Saxony-grown sprouts were to blame, “all indications speak to them being” the cause.
However, authorities have kept their warning against eating tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuce.
The head of Germany’s national disease control center raised the death toll to 22 Sunday — 21 people in Germany and one in Sweden — and said another 2,153 people in Germany have been sickened. That figure includes 627 people who have developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. The World Health Organization said 10 other European nations and the U.S. have reported a total of 90 other victims.
United States outbreaks and illnesses linked to sprouts:
Year Type Pathogen Cases
1990 Alfalfa S. Anatum 15
1995 Alfalfa S. Stanley 128
1995 Alfalfa S. Newport 133
1995 Alfalfa S. Newport 69
1996 Alfalfa S. Stanley 30
1996 Alfalfa S. Montevideo 650
1997 Alfalfa S. Infantis 109
1997 Alfalfa E. coli O157:H7 108
1997 Alfalfa S. Senftenberg 60
1997 Alfalfa S. Meleagridis 78
1998 Alfalfa S. Havana 40
1998 Alfalfa E. coli O157:NM 8
1999 Alfalfa S. Mbandaka 83
1999 Alfalfa S. Typhimurium 119
1999 Alfalfa S. Muenchen 61
1999 Alfalfa S. paratyphi B 51
1999 Alfalfa Salmonella spp. 34
1999 Alfalfa S. Muenchen 38
1999 Clover S. Saintpaul 36
2000 Mung S. Enteritidis 75
2000 Mung S. Enteritidis 12
2001 Alfalfa S. Kottbus 32
2001 Alfalfa Salmonella spp. 22
2001 Mung S. Enteritidis 84
2002 Alfalfa E. coli O157:H7 7
2003 Alfalfa S. Saintpaul 9
2003 Alfalfa S. Chester 26
2003 Alfalfa E. coli O157:H7 7
2003 Alfalfa S. Saintpaul 16
2003 Alfalfa E. coli O157:NM 13
2004 Alfalfa Salmonella spp. 12
2005 Alfalfa E. coli O157:H7 1
2005 Mung Salmonella spp. 648
2006 Bean S. Braenderup 4
2008 Alfalfa S. Typhimurium 13
2009 Alfalfa S. Saintpaul 6
2009 Alfalfa S. Saintpaul 235
2010 Alfalfa S. Newport 43
2010 Alfalfa S. I 4,,12:i:- 112
2011 Clover S. Newport 6
*Thanks to the CDC, Dr. Ben Chapman and Oregon DOH.
From the CDC: Sprouts Not Healthy Food for Everyone
Children, the elderly, and persons whose immune systems are not functioning well should not eat raw sprouts, because current treatments of seeds and sprouts cannot get rid of all bacteria present.
Persons who are at high risk for complications from foodborne illness should probably not eat raw sprouts, according to an article in the current issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC’s peer-reviewed journal, which tracks new and reemerging infectious diseases worldwide.
Although sprouts are often considered a “health food,” the warm, humid conditions needed for growing sprouts from seeds are also ideal for bacteria to flourish. Salmonella, E. coli, and other bacteria can grow to high levels without affecting the appearance of the sprouts.
Researchers have treated both seeds and sprouts with heat or washed them in solutions of chlorine, alcohol, and other chemicals. Some of these disinfectants reduced the levels of bacteria, but a potential hazard remained, especially for persons with weak immune systems. High temperatures that would kill the bacteria on the seeds would also keep them from sprouting. Until an effective way is found to prevent illness from sprouts, they should be eaten with caution, if at all.