Food Law News - UK - 2011

FSA News Item, 1 July 2011

FOOD SAFETY - FSA advice on sprouted seeds and E.coli

While investigations into the source of the recent outbreaks of E. coli O104:H4 in France and Germany are continuing, the Agency is reminding people that sprouted seeds should not be eaten raw.

The Food Standards Agency is continuing to work with the Health Protection Agency to investigate possible links between a UK company and the outbreak in France. Samples of the implicated seeds (fenugreek, rocket, and mustard) from the company are being tested for E. coli O104:H4. Once the full set of test results are returned, the Agency will make these available.

In the meantime, sprouted seeds should only be eaten if they have been cooked thoroughly until steaming hot throughout; they should not be eaten raw.

Equipment that has been used for sprouting seeds should be cleaned thoroughly after use with hot soapy water. People should always wash their hands before and after handling seeds intended for planting or sprouting as well as when preparing food.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have potentially linked the outbreaks in France and Germany to fenugreek seeds (see link below). However, there is currently no definitive evidence to say that this is the source of either outbreak.

EFSA's research does not affect the Agency's advice. The EFSA and ECDC summary concludes that 'because fenugreek seeds are often sold as mixes of seeds and that during re-packaging cross-contamination cannot be excluded pending outcome of the epidemiological investigation under way, consumers should be advised to ensure that all types of sprouts are thoroughly cooked before consumption'.

To date, no cases of E. coli O104:H4 food poisoning have been reported in the UK linked to the outbreak in France.

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