Health

#54: Attack of the Salad Sprouts


Sprouts contaminated with E. coli killed 50 people and sickened more than 4,000.

By Mara GrunbaumJan 5, 2012 12:00 AM
fenugreeksprouts.jpg
Fenugreek sprouts | DeathByBokeh via Flickr

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Last summer the particularly virulent 0104:H4 strain of E. coli bacteria sickened at least 4,075 people, primarily in Europe, according to the World Health Organization. Of those, 908 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening kidney complication, and 50 died, making the 2011 outbreak the most lethal bout of foodborne illness on record.

It took European authorities 47 days after the first reports of HUS to identify the culprit: a shipment of fenugreek seeds, used to grow sprouts, from an Egyptian producer. Since sprouts are seldom eaten solo, they are especially difficult to pinpoint as a contamination source, says University of Wisconsin food safety scientist Kathy Glass. In fact officials initially pinned the outbreak on cucumbers, sprouts’ frequent salad companions—a mistake that may have prolonged the disease’s spread.


In Related News The U.S. suffered its deadliest foodborne illness outbreak since 1924: As of November, Listeria-laden cantaloupes had sickened 139 people and killed 29.

The U.S. suffered its deadliest foodborne illness outbreak since 1924: As of November, Listeria-laden cantaloupes had sickened 139 people and killed 29.

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