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EHEC outbreak: BfR also advises against the consumption of home-grown raw sprouts and germ buds

18/2011, 12.06.2011

Consolidation of information suggests that seeds for sprouts and germ buds are contaminated with the EHEC germ

Based on epidemiological information provided by the public authorities in Lower Saxony, the suspicion that sprout seeds could have been an underlying cause of contamination of the sprouts is corroborated. Lower Saxony reports about a current case in which home-grown sprouts have possibly been the cause for an EHEC infection in a family. However, it has not yet been possible to detect the pathogen in the seeds. It is standard practice to grow sprouts at home. The cultivation receptacles are available in many stores. "If the seeds are already contaminated with germs, even observance of kitchen hygiene rules does not protect from an EHEC infection", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "For reasons of precaution, BfR, therefore, also recommends to refrain from consuming home-grown raw sprouts for the time being."

BfR, BVL and RKI recommended already on Friday, 10 June 2011, to refrain from consuming sprouts raw until further notice, in addition to the usual hygiene measures. Scientists from the National Reference Laboratory for Escherichia coli at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) have confirmed by now that the raw sprouts contaminated with EHEC, which originated from a household of patients with an EHEC infection in North Rhine-Westphalia, were identical with the bacterial strain of the infected patients.

The federal and regional authorities continue to work at full speed on the tracking of the input pathway for the contamination of sprouts and possibly seeds with EHEC. To this end the available data on delivery lists and distribution routes, cases of disease, etc. are intensively assessed and supplemented. Based on the evaluation of outbreak clusters of accumulations of cases of disease and suspicious food findings, experts hope to be able to explain the outbreak event and track the source of the pathogen. The investigation laboratories of the Laender and the National Reference Laboratory currently examine the samples of seeds received.

About BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. BfR engages in own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.