Fenugreek sprouts imported from Egypt have been singled out as the possible cause of outbreaks of E.coli 104 H4 in Germany and France.
A joint assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) declared “that currently fenugreek sprouts are the most likely connection between the French cases and previous outbreak in Germany”.
The German outbreak in May and June has so far killed 48 and sickened around 4,000, while the French outbreak in the southern region of Bordeaux affected 15 people, although there have so far been no fatalities.
The report said that all those struck down in France had attended the same community event on 8 June and consumed fenugreek, mustard and rucola sprouts
However, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) stressed today “there is currently no definitive evidence to say that this is the source of either outbreak”.
Re-packaging cross contamination
The bodies have all warned consumers not to eat raw sprouts because of the threat of cross contamination during re-packaging.
EFSA and ECDC also strongly recommend that consumers do not even grow sprouts for their own consumption.
“The assessment 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 underway, consumers should be advised to ensure that all types of sprouts are thoroughly cooked before consumption”, added the European bodies.
Last week the French consumer affairs Minister, Frederic Lefebvre, linked the Bordeaux outbreak to the seeds of UK company Thompson and Morgan.
The FSA said tests on the Ipswich-based firm’s seeds were still pending. Morgan and Thompson said it had imported fenugreek seeds from Egypt and supplied them to a French garden centre.
“We note this report states organic fenugreek sprouting seed, originally sourced in Egypt, has been linked to the German and French outbreaks of e coli 0104,” it said in a statement.
The company added: “We can confirm that our own supplier sourced this Egyptian seed, which was then supplied to us. Further, we can confirm that this sprouting seed was then exclusively supplied into the French garden centre market.”