ISS Rejects Contaminated Seed

ISSRejects Contaminated Seed



September4, 2000


Werecently received a sample of seed from Australia that was contaminated withmouse droppings.  We immediately contacted the processing plant andinformed them of the problem.  They appreciated our diligence andvolunteered to divert the seed from the sprouting market to the animal fodder(hay) market.

Wethen scrambled to find replacement seed and received a sample out of Californiathat passed our inspection tests as well as salmonella and E.coli0157:H7 tests.  We purchased the load and brought it in to Cookeville for acomplete inspection before shipping it out to sprout growers. Unfortunately, upon full inspection, our seed specialist, Barry Mayesdetermined that this load of seed was also contaminated at the rate of 4 animaldroppings per pound or 9 droppings per kilogram.

Weimmediately contacted the supplier in California and let them know their loadwas contaminated.  They informed us that their seed could not possibly becontaminated because they specialize in supplying the sprouting industry andthey don’t sell contaminated seed.  They felt that the only reason we wouldreject their seed is because we must have found seed at a cheaper price. We sent them a sample of the seed, with the mouse dropping in it and they lookedat it and said it was just dirt.  This is despite the fact that we sentthem our fecal coliform test findings and even a photograph of the plateitself.

Theywere so convinced that they could not have contaminated seed that – get this -they contacted the FDA and asked them to come out and inspect the seed. The FDA, Tennessee Department of Health, and the USDA converged on ISS. The FDA inspected the seed as well as our sprouting facility.  TheTennessee Department of Health inspected our sprouting facility, and the USDAinspected the seed.

Boththe USDA and FDA determined that the seed was contaminated.  The FDAaccepted a proposal from the seed supplier in California to allow the seed to betagged “Not for Sprouting” and shipped back to California.  TheCalifornia company will need to provide records to the FDA as to where eachshipment goes and that it will used for fodder, not sprouting.

Wehave found other seed from Australia and Canada that passed our stringentsampling, inspection and testing procedures and is available for sale to sproutgrowers.  We believe it is the safest seed on the market.  However,like all sprouting seed, it needs to be considered suspect of contamination andbe sanitized.  Before any sprouts are sold they need tested forpathogens using the FDA recommended procedures.

Therewas an interesting thought brought up by the FDA inspector though.  Thereis a certain amount of contamination (feces, rat hair, insects, etc.) that isallowed in food.  Does the FDA have the authority to condemncontaminated sprouting seed if it falls within the tolerance?  Theseed in question did not fall within the tolerances, so it was not an issue, butI got the impression that they needed to find a certain level of contaminationbefore they considered it contaminated.  You might find the next articleinteresting.