The European Union is expected to lift its embargo on Egyptian seeds – put in place following the deadly E. coli outbreak linked to fenugreek seeds from that country – within the next two weeks.

A week after an EU delegation was sent to Egypt to investigate the current safety of the seed supply there, the team has wrapped up its investigation and is returning to Europe to report its findings to the European Commission. The EC will use the information to decide whether or not to lift its ban on 15 varieties of Egyptian beans and seeds.

The team did not find any signs of E. coli O104:H4 contamination during their visit, reported Sherif Al-Beltaguy, chairman of Egypt’s Agricultural Export Council Monday, according to Afrique en ligne.

However, a lack of hard evidence is not a sure sign that Egyptian seeds are free of contamination, as sampling does not always reveal the presence of bacteria on sprouting seeds. The sample can be taken from a different bag than the one carrying tainted seeds, or the amount of bacteria on a seed may be too small to register on a test unless the seed is sprouted.

The ban on Egyptian seeds, instigated July 5, was originally scheduled to last until the end of October, but officials are now considering moving that date up by more than a month. The European Commission is expected to review the investigators’ report within the next 10 days, says Al-Beltaguy.

Last week, Ukraine lifted its embargo on the import of Egyptian vegetables and seeds, raising hopes in the African country that other countries would soon follow suit.

The Egyptian agricultural ministry also reported that all produce tested for the outbreak strain of E. coli have come back negative.

The seed shipment pinpointed as the source of the outbreak was imported from Egypt in 2009, before being distributed throughout Europe. The source of the contamination likely occurred before the seeds were shipped – either during growing or processing – according to the findings of an emergency task force organized in July by the EU.

The outbreak, centered in Germany and linked to sprouted fenugreek seeds, began in May and was officially declared over in late July, after new cases were no longer being reported. In total, the deadly bacteria claimed 53 lives and sickened over 4,000 Europeans.

  • Doc Mudd

    Investigators went to Egypt, poked around a bit and decided the seeds are no different than they’ve ever been…just seeds. A fine road trip with unsurprising results.
    Meanwhile back at the ranch, what progress has the EU made in cleaning up organic seed sprouting operations, bringing organic farming food safety practices into the 21st century and monitoring product safety for consumers of organic sprouts and other organic produce? Is e. coli still being slathered on Spanish organic cucumbers? Has Prince Charles proclaimed to his loyal organic sycophants on the matter of hygiene (for organic veggie production, that is)?
    The historic German organic foods E. coli outbreak of 2011 (50 dead, 100 kidney transplants, 800 HUS, 4000 sickened) killed and injured more human beings than the BP gulf oil spill catastrophe and the Fukushima nuclear disaster combined! All because organic farming practices encouraged the proliferation of pathogenic e. coli and facilitated its distribution into a local market. Any progress in preventing a recurrence in Germany or UK or USA? Anything preventive, at all??

  • Michael Bulger

    Maybe this time “Mudd” will offer some sort of explanation as to what “organic farming practices encouraged the proliferation pathogenic e. coli”. That certainly would be helpful, and might advance food safety.

  • Brian Burke

    To Dr. Mudd,
    The organic sprout and farming food safety practices are being brought up to speed with GFSI, ISO, FDA and other food safety groups. The real source of Salmonella and E-Coli is not sprouts or tomatoes, or spinach, or cucumbers, it is manure.
    Meat giant Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak that has killed one person in California and sickened at least 76 others. Illnesses in the outbreak date back to March and have been reported in 26 states coast to coast.
    Sprouts get a lot of attention from government food safety experts and the media because they are a fresh, raw food.
    The big numbers in salmonella have always come from poultry. Here are some of the most prominent Salmonella outbreaks in recent history;
    1994 – Trucks hauled raw eggs and after that ice cream. 200,000 people were sicked by the ice cream contaminated from the eggs.
    2007 – Undercooked pies (made with eggs) sickened people in 35 states
    2008 – Poor kitchen practices led to cross contamination of foods
    2009 – Processing plant contaminated peanuts causing sickness in 46 of the 50 U.S. States.
    2010 – Contaminated Chicken feed caused the recall of 500 million eggs
    2011 – 36 million pounds of contaminated ground turkey recalled

  • Doc Mudd

    Heh, Bulger, we seem to have to keep going over this (does eating organic food somehow impair one’s memory?). You feature yourself one of the big-shot organic experts; you figure it how fecal bacteria colonize retail organic food and get it fixed, then get back to us, eh?
    In the meantime we (sane safety-minded consumers, that is) can only avoid purchasing anything labeled “organic” and keep reminding you distracted organic snakeoil salesmen that fecal bacteria keep turning up on organic food.
    Turds and food are getting mixed together somewhere along the line and not cleaned & sanitized before foisting overpriced organic fashion food on consumers — doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that much out. Grubby damned obsolete way to farm, this “organic” fad. Little more than a lame excuse for sloth and abundant filth…and an overpriced rip-off of consumers to boot.

  • Steve

    1.– WHAT a Surprise (NOT) that the inspectors didn’t find any contaminated seed in Egypt — must be that after the Europe-wide recalls a few months ago that the >>2009<< seed lot is all cleared out or well buried by now…
    2. — And WHAT a Surprise (NOT) that the Moc Dudd finger-pointing at Organic NEVER stops– even when the Facts of the case are that German officials have exonerated the sprout producer and implicated contaminated seed. Oh well, neither snow, nor sleet nor hurricane winds can keep this industrial-food mentality-impaired knee-jerk reactor from making his appointed rounds.
    Sad, actually.

  • Doc Mudd

    “Facts of the case”…
    …are 50 dead, 100 kidney transplants, 800 HUS, 4000 sickened from eating organic sprouts produced and marketed locally by a small German organic farmer. History-making…until the next mass poisoning, possibly in the US…unless it can somehow be prevented…which organic zealots fiercely resist, apparently.
    Sad, actually.—is-the-united-states-willing-to-pay-to-to-prevent-it-from-happening/

  • Doc Mudd

    Been Googling around and can’t find much in the way of new preventive measures for organic sprout growers, not even much discussion — just a sinister silence and on this the sound of Michael’s and Steve’s brooms vigorously sweeping the entire tragic fatal German organic food poisoning incident under the carpet.
    Did discover the Irish making a sensible labeling rule to protect their people from contaminated sprouts. It’s a start.
    For all the rest of us nothing’s changed. We will just trust to blind faith, hope, worry and good luck that we will not be the next victims of a deadly organic food poisoning event. Because unless effective changes are made there will be another outbreak…and another…and another…

  • Michael Bulger

    Mudd, you seem to be willfully ignorant of the widespread use of raw manure in conventional agriculture, and the more lenient safety precautions mandated therein.
    Research has not shown that organic food poses a greater food safety risk in comparison to conventional food. So says the USDA.
    “Research to date on these issues has not substantiated significant increased dangers associated with organic foods.”
    I’m sure you will now carry on with your sideshow.

  • Doc Mudd

    Why would I need a “sideshow” when you belt out such a fine a capella? From your own recommended source, Bulger…
    “The use of animal wastes for fertilization of produce plants increased the risk of E. coli contamination in organic (OR=13.2, 95% CI=2.2–61.2, P-value <0.0001) and semi-organic (OR=12.9, 95% CI=2.9–56.3, P-value <0.0001) produce significantly. Improper ageing of untreated animal manure significantly increased this risk in organic produce (OR=4.2 95% CI=1.7–12.3, P-value=0.005) grown using such manure as a fertilizer. Organic growers who used cattle manure for fertilization of their crops showed significantly greater risk of contamination with the E. coli (OR=7.4, 95% CI=1.6–36.8, P-value=0.003), compared to those who used other types of manure-based fertilizer.” Excerpt, abstract: “Association of Farm Management Practices with Risk of Escherichia coli Contamination in Pre-Harvest Produce Grown in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” by A. Mukherjee, D. Speh and F. Diez-Gonzalez. International Journal of Food Microbiology 120, no. 3 (2007): pp. 296-302. Abstract:
    I must admit, lately you’ve been more than helpful with your source citations. Do you ever read and learn from any of them?

  • Michael Bulger

    You’ve demonstrated a lack of comprehension.
    The Mukherjee study has been misinterpreted before, so you’re not alone. In fact, the University of Minnesota addresses the confusion on their webpage:
    Their position is that the results of the study have been “misrepresented in the media as proving that organic vegetables are more contaminated than conventional vegetables.”
    In fact, the “organic” farms in this study with a higher rate of contamination were clustered geographically in the Southern and Southeastern parts of Minnesota. The conventional farms were almost all further North.
    The authors of the study were clear in their report: “These results suggest a geographical effect, but because of the limited nature of this study they should not be extrapolated to other regions.”
    Further, the “organic” group included non-certified farms that would not have been able to carry the organic label if their sales exceeded $5,000 annually. The researchers found “no significant differences in bacteria levels between vegetables from conventional and certified organic growers.”
    The non-certified “organic” farmers demonstrated the highest contamination, likely due to not conforming to National Organic Program rules on manure handling. However, the certified organic lettuce and leafy greens had less contamination than conventional lettuce and leafy greens.
    Another point that complicates the results is that the organic and semi-organic farms in this study were much more likely to grow leafy greens and other vegetables that come in contact with the soil. Therefore, the risk of any contamination was already significantly higher for these farms, and based on factors that were independent of organic status.
    According to UMN, “Organically grown vegetables are no more likely to be contaminated than conventional vegetables.”

  • Doc Mudd

    Excuses, excuses, excuses…
    …so, do the dung-worshiping “organic”/faux-organic/’all-natural’ operators in my geographic region foist veggies slathered in more poop bugs or fewer? How about in your family’s geographic region? Is UMN’s apologetic “geographical effect” respectful of county lines, gated communities, range of electric car, the next visble ridgeline, what? And which GPS coordinates feature the more contaminated produce to be avoided at all cost?
    Pretty risky assumption to wishfully expect fecal pathogens can not grow in your zipcode, only in everyone else’s. Dangerous attitude for growers and for consumers. What do you wanna bet the Germans once assumed that? How long, do you suppose before the go back to believing it?
    You are welcome to all you please of the grubby certified and non-certifed organic dung-slathered stuff that’s been lovingly groped and mauled all morning at the farmers market by moms with diapered kids on their arms and old folks out walking their pets (and presumably cleaning up after them). You’re welcome to all of that — I’ll pass, thanks.

  • Michael Bulger

    No excuses. Corrections.
    Your original comment begged to be corrected. Your lack of depth in understanding regarding the UMN study (i.e., geographic range, diversity of crops grown, groupings) begged clarification. Consider both served.
    Enjoy the weekend.

  • I hope they lift the ban as well, a lot of people want their sprouting seeds.