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Sprouts Implicated in E. coli Outbreak in France

As many as 10 people may be sick in southwestern France in an outbreak of foodborne illness once again linked to sprouts.

Press reports say preliminary lab tests indicate that two of the people are infected with E. coli O104, the same strain that has caused more than 3,800 illnesses and at least 45 deaths in the epidemic linked to German sprouts, but health authorities are not saying there is a connection between the outbreak in Germany and the illnesses in France.

Six of the French patients reportedly had eaten soup garnished with sprouts at an end-of-term party June 8 in B├Ęgles, near Bordeaux. Their first symptoms began between June 15 and 21.

Bordeaux authorities said that of the 10 people who suffered bloody diarrhea, seven remain hospitalized. Two have developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). The seven admitted to hospital in Bordeaux are adults, ages 19 to 67.

In a press statement Friday, Frederic Lefebvre, secretary of state for consumer affairs, said the implicated sprouts were purchased at a Jardiland store and were produced by Thompson & Morgan, a mail order seed and plant company based in Ipswich, England. The minister requested that the company’s fenugreek, mustard and roquette (arugula) sprouts and sprouts seeds be recalled while product tests are conducted.

Although Lefebvre also recommended that “consumers who bought these same products not use them,” he stressed that “the link between the symptoms and eating of the sprouts so far has not been definitively established.”

The British company told the BBC in a statement it was “highly unlikely” its seeds were responsible. The company said it had sold “thousands of packets and have had no reported problems” and that it was more likely that “the way that they were used and handled” had caused the contamination.

French health authorities said there does not appear to be any connection between the cases in Bordeaux and an outbreak last week of E.coli infections near Lille, in northern France, that made eight children ill. In that outbreak, one two-year-old remains in a coma and three other children are still being treated in hospital, after they ate  “Steaks Country” brand beef burgers  distributed by the German discount chain Lidl.

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