Officials warn against eating sprouted seeds E coli outbreak in France linked to bean sprouts

30 June 2011

Ecoli bacteria

European consumers have been warned not to eat raw bean sprouts, or other sprouted seeds, following the most recent outbreak of E coli in France.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued the advice yesterday and said that people should also avoid growing seeds for their own consumption.

This follows similar advice from the UK’s Food Standards Agency over the weekend that sprouted seeds should only be eaten if they have been cooked thoroughly and are steaming hot throughout.

E coli investigations continue

Investigations are continuing into the E coli outbreaks in Germany and, most recently France, that have been linked to the consumption of sprouted seeds.

EU officials are trying to trace the source of the outbreak – possibly linked to seeds from Egypt - that may have been mixed with other seeds, including seeds exported to France by a UK company.

The bacteria – a toxin-producing form of E coli – is particularly vicious and can cause severe kidney complications. 

Thousands affected

The latest figures show that 15 people were affected by the most recent outbreak in Bordeaux which was linked to sprouts being used as a garnish on soup at a school event. Eight people developed the severe form of the illness. 

More than 3,000 people have been infected in Germany and 47 people have died as a result. In excess of 800 have had severe kidney problems.

An EU task force including the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Austria, co-ordinated by EFSA is looking at whether seeds are the cause of the outbreaks and if so, where else they may have been exported.