Were bean sprouts the vehicle for E. coli O104:H4?

Some new developments today in the enormous enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) outbreak in Germany, an outbreak that has sickened at least 1600, caused over 600 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and killed 22 so far. Daily updates can be found at the European CDC site, here.

Eli has blogged several times about the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed several months ago. That law will do little to protect U.S. consumers from foodborne illness, however, if the FDA is not provided sufficient funding to implement it. Perhaps they should serve a delicious bean sprout salad at the next House Appropriations subcommittee meeting--we'll find out if our representatives are confident enough in U.S. food safety systems to eat it.


  1. I was suspicious that this was going to be linked to sprouts given that adults seemed to be at higher risk. Kids are too smart to eat a useless spout. It reminds me of the outbreak almost 15 years ago in Michigan and Virginia that we used at Maryland to teach outbreak investigation to medical students. You can read about the 1997 outbreak here:


    You'll notice a summer seasonal occurance with both outbreaks...

    Update: It looks like initial tests on sprouts are negative. Which doesn't mean much.

    I do agree with the Guardian commentary that bean sprouts should be treated like raw oysters:

  2. Even if they weren't contaminated, does anyone even like them? I'm a vegetarian and they don't do anything for me.


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