What We Have to Say About the Spring, 2011 Pathogenic Outbreak in Germany

In light of the May, 2011 pathogenic outbreak in Germany, that was incorrectly linked to Mung Bean sprouts, we want to advise our customers that the safest food is that which you prepare in your own home. As long as your Sprouter is clean, your hands are clean and you are using a clean water source such as tap water, you can be assured of the highest level of safety. Some people may wish to take the added precaution of adding to the soak water 1/4 cup of white vinegar per quart of water or a few drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract. These two sanitizers can be added to the soak water and will clean the seed's outer coat. We want to remind you that buying seed from an organic source (us, for example) also increases your safety, since organic seeds are required to be handled in a much safer way than conventionally grown seed.

The German government has been highly criticized for being slow to act on the outbreak that began May 2. An ABC News article on June 10 states: "German officials accused Spanish cucumbers of being the culprit last week but had to retract when the cucumbers had a different strain of E. coli (which may or may not have been harmful to humans. Not all E. coli is dangerous to humans.). On Sunday, they blamed German Mung Bean sprouts, only to backtrack a day later when initial tests were negative." None of the tests conducted on the German bean sprouts showed contamination. However, after erroneously accusing Spanish cucumbers,  the German authorities focused their attention on Mung Bean sprouts. The ABC article further states:  "If you gave us 200 cases and 5 days, we should be able to solve this outbreak," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, whose team has contained numerous food-borne outbreaks in the United States.

Osterholm described the German effort as "erratic" and "a disaster" and said officials should have done more detailed patient interviews as soon as the epidemic began. He also disputed the idea it might be impossible to find the outbreak's source. "To say we may never solve this is just an excuse for an ongoing bad investigation," he said. "This is like a cold murder case where you go back and re-examine the evidence." Even German lawmakers have slammed the government's chaotic response to the outbreak, criticizing the confusing announcements and retractions. Christine Clauss, Saxony's state health minister and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's own governing party, said states were initially conducting their own investigations into the outbreak. "It would be especially important to cooperate more closely and in a more centralized way in situations with a nationwide germ," she told the daily newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung.  As of June 7 after a botched investigation the German authorities were under immense pressure to pin point the culprit within 10 days. On June 10, with no bacterial evidence, they named Mung Bean sprouts.

As is the case with epidemiological analysis, even if the lab tests don't prove conclusive, circumstantial evidence is used to determine the answer.  In this case, as in too many that have proceeded it, sprouts were blamed, based solely on information collected about where and what people ate, regardless of the lab tests coming back clean. They will probably never know for certain what food was involved, though that didn't stop them from moving the blame to Fenugreek (an of course there has been no exoneration of Mung Beans. As it has been so shall it always be - the powers that be, along with the media are happy to lay blame - but they are never inclined to apologize or correct untruths as they move along in their "investigation".). Without definitive analysis all the German government has succeeded in doing is to scare Europeans away from all vegetables. For example, AFP News in Europe states in an article June 15 that farmers in The Netherlands have lost over 30,000 tons of crops due to lack of demand for vegetables.

All of our seeds have been tested and are free of pathogenic bacteria. We eat sprouts grown from the same seeds we sell to you, as we always have, and as our children and pets always have. We continue to eat them without fear, and always will.

We were in Europe on a family holiday for all of this chaos. Our travels took us to the U.K., Holland, France, and Italy. Though we were in Europe since this outbreak began, we were purchasing fruits and vegetables at public markets and eating raw, without fear during our entire stay. We hope you too can enjoy a life free of fear and full of fresh organic food.

Gil and Lori


Educate Yourself: See what foods have recently been linked to e Coli.