More Salmonella Enteritidis Phage Type 913 Gastroenteritis Shows Up InMung Bean Sprouts

MoreSalmonella Enteritidis Phage Type 913 Gastroenteritis Shows Up In Mung BeanSprouts – Growers Prevent Outbreak


International Specialty Supply

October 7, 2001

Lastweek a US sprout grower reported that he received a confirmed positivefor salmonella inhis mung bean sprouts.  The sprouts had been sanitized with 20,000 ppmcalcium hypochlorite.  The grower received a full container of Chinese seedfrom a Japanese supplier doing business in the US and had used all but fivepallets of the seed.  He detected the pathogen during post testing in hishold and release program.  No contaminated sprouts were releasedto the public.

Thegrower notified the supplier but the supplier said the grower had receivedthe entire lot.  Yet, another bean sprout growerdetected salmonella in his own hold and release program.  Theseed was from a different ‘lot”, but was reported to be from the samesupplier, and the salmonella was reported to be the same strain foundby the first grower.  It is also reported to be the same strain (PT913) as the outbreak in Canada in February and March, 2000 (See SproutNet,September 25, 2001).

Thefirst grower had used about 30,000 of the seed without detecting a pathogen. This indicates that either the pathogen was not uniformly distributed throughoutthe lot, or that the 20,000 ppm calcium hypochlorite does work, most ofthe time.  Without the hold and release post testing program, there wouldhave been at least a couple of growers sending out contaminated product.

Thegrowers need to be commended for their efforts.  However, the grower Ispoke with continued using the seed, citing that he has shownthat the hold and release program works.  He contended, “all mung seedis contaminated” and that if growers were to return all contaminated seedto suppliers, there wouldn’t be any seed left to sprout.

I begto differ.  ISS has rejected about as many lots as we have accepted. Most of the time we reject them because they don’t pass our physicalinspections.  For some reason we just don’t feel comfortable selling seedthat is full of mouse droppings or fluoresces from urine.  If seed doesn’t pass ourphysical inspections, there is no sense in testing it for pathogens. Of the seed that passes the physical inspections, we found only one lot tohave a pathogen; that being E.coli 0157:H7.

JonathanSprouts uses similar procedures as ISS and has never found apathogen.  When you are sampling every bag and testing the runoff waterfrom up to 1000 lbs of sprouts from that seed, if there is a pathogen in thelot, the likelihood of detection is extremely high.  Itappears it is either possible to reduce the number of contaminated lots throughphysical inspection (I suspect it is or we would not be doing it), or,relatively few lots contain human pathogens.  Actually, I suspect bothare true.  Although the number of outbreaks in sprouts has been highrelative to other produce, it is low relative to the number of seed lots thatare sold.

Thegrower who prevented the outbreak also contended that growers need toprotect seed suppliers unless they want to limit the number ofsuppliers who will sell sprouting seed.  At the growers request I amnot releasing the name of the seed supplier who shipped out the contaminatedseed.  However, I think growers should hold their seed suppliersaccountable.  How else will the industry weed out the bad suppliers?  The grower reported that this is the fourth incidence he is aware of thatinvolved this particular seed supplier.  Yes, this time there was not anoutbreak that we know of, but it was the grower who detected the pathogen, theseed supplier.  It is this type of supplier that is ruining the industry. One sprouting seed supplier has been involved in more than a dozen outbreaks andgrowers still support them.

I thinkI convinced the grower to quit using that seed lot and return it to thesupplier.  I don’t know what the second grower has done with his seed.

Itappears that the hold and release post testing program recommended by the FDA isan effective way of reducing the number of sprout related outbreaks.  Thesprout industry is much improved because many growers are following the FDAguidelines.  Now it is time to improve the seed industry so they reduce theamount of contaminated seed that goes out in the first place.