“After a thorough, science-based review, we have decided to voluntarily discontinue selling fresh sprouts,” said Payton Pruett, Kroger’s vice president of food safety in a press release. “Testing and sanitizing by the growers and safe food handling by the consumer are the critical steps to protect against food-borne illness. Sprouts present a unique challenge because pathogens may reside inside of the seeds where they cannot be reached by the currently available processing interventions. Out of an abundance of caution, the Kroger Family of Stores will no longer sell fresh sprouts or procure other foods that are produced on the same equipment as sprouts.”
The change will take effect Monday, October 22. The company said it is willing to review its policy if future technologies and practices allow sprouts to grow without the risk of internalizing pathogens.
The move follows two years after retail giant Walmart announced it would stop selling sprouts in October 2010.
Earlier this year, sub-sandwich chain Jimmy John’s dropped sprouts from its menu in February after the item tied the chain to five outbreaks over the course of four years. In January, deli chain Jason’s Deli also cited recent outbreaks when announcing it would not serve sprouts for at least the remainder of 2012.
Sprouts have caused at least 54 foodborne illness outbreaks worldwide since 1990, including the summer 2011 E. coli outbreak in Germany that killed 53 people and sickened roughly 4,000.
In 2000, food safety attorney and Food Safety News publisher Bill Marler called for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require warning labels on raw sprout packaging.
Kroger operates 2,425 supermarkets and department stores in 31 states under two dozen names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s.© Food Safety News