Outbreak: German Task Force's FindingsFood Safety News
by Gretchen Goetz | Jul 21, 2011
European health officials tested more than 10,000 samples of food but never found any contaminated with the deadly E. coli O104:H4 that has caused nearly 4,000 illnesses and at least 44 deaths in the outbreaks in France and Germany linked to Egyptian fenugreek sprouting seeds.
A presentation on what eventually will be a final report from the EHEC Task Force of the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) said "it is very difficult to detect low STEC (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli) contamination level in seeds and sprouts and there is no validated method."
"To find the source of the EHEC outbreak was very difficult," acknowledged Dr. Helmut Tschiersky-Sch√∂neburg, president of BVL, in an e-mailed statement to Food Safety News. "This was on the one hand due to the fact that EHEC bacteria have a very long incubation period, and on the other hand to the fact that sprouts have a very short shelf life."
The task force, assembled in early June after initial efforts to find the source of the outbreak were unsuccessful, said that with this lack of contaminated-product evidence, "The only way out [was to] intensify the investigation on tracing back and tracing forward."
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More on this outbreak: European E. coli O104 (EHEC) Outbreak Linked to Sprouts