E. coli outbreak in Germany in June 2011
An E. coli outbreak in Germany in June 2011 was traced to E. coli O104:H4, a different strain of E. coli from the one that typically causes major food safety outbreaks. The outbreak, caused by contaminated sprouts, killed 39 people, while sickening 3,517 and causing life-threatening kidney disease (hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS) in 839, as of Friday, June 16, 2011. While E. coli O104:H4 is transmitted via human feces, Germany does not allow the use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer on food crops. The sewage sludge industry noted the outbreak with concern about public perceptions of the safety of using sewage sludge on food crops.
E. coli and Sprouts
- "Sprouts... are a prime suspect in microbial outbreaks. They have been implicated in many outbreaks in the United States. This is because sprouts are sprouted from minute seeds that are hard to clean...
- "As Food Safety News explains in a long discussion of this problem, the seeds need to be dumped in bleach to kill bacteria. It’s also a really good idea to test the wash water to make sure it is free of pathogens.
- "The seeds are sprouted in water at room temperature, “a warm, moist climate — just perfect for a bacteria’s social life and subsequent reproduction.”
- "The FDA has been aware of this problem for a long time, as shown by this brief chronology:
- 1999: The FDA issued “nonbinding guidance” on growing sprouts. This caused the ever-vigilant Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to file a petition arguing that guidance rules for sprouts needed to be mandatory.
- 2004: The FDA wrote a “note” to producers and shippers of sprouts stating that it was aware of 27 outbreaks of microbial illness due to sprouts and urging producers to follow the voluntary guidance procedures.
- 2004: The FDA followed up by issuing safety guidance for growing sprouts in retail establishments. These were voluntary, of course.
- 2004: California health officials produced a slide presentation on the hazards of sprout production, urging producers to follow safety guidelines.
- 2005: The FDA announced public meeting to discuss the science of safe production of sprouts as a basis for beginning a rulemaking process for mandatory safety procedures.
- 2009: The FDA issued a warning about consuming alfalfa sprouts.
- "The Food Safety Modernization act passed last year finally gives FDA the authority to require food safety controls for sprouts."
Resources and articles
Related Sourcewatch articles
- James Andrews, O104:H4 May Change How We Deal With E. coli, Food Safety News, June 16, 2011, Accessed June 19, 2011.
- Gretchen Goetz, "Germany's E. coli Outbreak: A Global Lesson," Food Safety News, June 18, 2011, Accessed June 19, 2011.
- The global resurgence of infectious diseases, June 7, 2011, Accessed June 19, 2011.
- Diane Garvey, "European E. coli Outbreak and the Implications for the Biosolids Sector," Biosolids Blog, June 15, 2011, Accessed June 22, 2011.
- Marion Nestle, "The science and politics of E. coli in sprouts," Food Politics, June 11, 2011, Accessed June 22, 2011.
- E. coli, Centers for Disease Control
- Michael Smith, "One-Two Punch May Explain Power of E. Coli Outbreak," MedPage Today, June 22, 2011.
- Maria Cheng, "Germany’s E. coli outbreak caused by mix of two deadly strains," Toronto Star, June 22, 2011.
- Cookson Beecher, "Can Technology Rescue the Sprouts Industry?," Food Safety News, June 20, 2011.
- Germany confirms human E. coli transmission , Al Jazeera English, June 19, 2011.
- Gretchen Goetz, "Germany's E. coli Outbreak: A Global Lesson," Food Safety News, June 18, 2011.
- Daryll Ray, "German E. coli outbreak: Are there lessons to be learned?," Policy Pennings, June 17, 2011.
- James Andrews, O104:H4 May Change How We Deal With E. coli, Food Safety News, June 16, 2011.
- David Gumpert, "Don’t ban raw milk because of the E. coli outbreak," Grist, June 16, 2011.
- Marion Nestle, "The science and politics of E. coli in sprouts," Food Politics, June 11, 2011.
- Daryll Ray, "E. coli again: A troubling new twist with serious consequences," Policy Pennings, June 10, 2011.
- Ian Sample, "E coli outbreak: German organic farm officially identified," The Guardian, June 10, 2011.
- Marion Nestle, "The German E. coli outbreak: Q and A," Food Politics, June 8, 2011.
- Michael Hanlon, "Superbug timebomb: Scientists fear the over-use of antibiotics in medicine and farming may have led to the deadly E.coli outbreak," Daily Mail, June 7, 2011.