What went down in fall, 1999
when an outbreak blamed on sprouts
almost killed Sproutpeople....
Once again we have shown that Certified Organic Sprouting Seed is
THE BEST STARTING POINT FOR SPROUT SAFETY!
October 5, 1999: Wisconsin Health and Agriculture departments issued a press release warning of a salmonella outbreak related to sprouts, which in the next mornings newspapers appeared under the headline "Throw Out Your Sprouts!". The entire Wisconsin sprout industry (4 in-state and 2 out of state growers) had their sprouts removed from stores and restaurants state wide. This was the first time in memory that an entire industry was punished for one (perhaps 2) companies failing.
October 6, 1999: We deliver our sprouts - which were already packed before the press release was issued - telling our customers to hold them in hopes that the situation will be resolved. It isn't - the week is a total loss.
October 7, 1999: A state food Investigator comes to our facility to gather paperwork (invoices for seed bought and sprout sold amongst other things), sprouting seed, partially grown and fully grown sprouts. We lay off our full-time production worker Carl.
October 11, 1999: The Sproutpeople are promised a press release which exonerates them. State agencies know that it is statistically impossible for our sprouts to be involved. NO press release is issued.
October 13, 1999: A Wisconsin Ag. Inspector comes to our facility and swabs several surfaces (including the drain in our sink). He returns the swabs to Madison for further testing. We deliver approximately 15% of our usual weekly orders for sprouts across Wisconsin (beans, grass and greens - no alfalfa or clover). We raise our price for the 1st time in over 6 years in hopes that it will help us survive.
October 15, 1999: All lab tests confirm that The Sproutpeople are in no way related to the salmonella outbreak.
None of the samples or swabs taken from us contain any pathogens - only the good bacteria we nurture and love.
We are once again (as has been the case every day this week) promised a press release which exonerates us.
October 20, 1999: Lori is told by the Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture "It is not our policy to exonerate individual companies, there will be no press release until the results are final. I'm sorry if it is hurting your business." We deliver across the state, this time mustering almost 40% of our normal sales.
October 28, 1999: Wisconsin's departments of Health and of Agriculture issue a press release reporting the end of the outbreak. The 2 sprout growers who were implicated are mentioned casually. The innocent growers (The Sproutpeople for example) are not mentioned at all.
October 31, 1999: Carl quits - after almost 2 years he can no longer stand the angst and instability which we have been living with for well over a full year but which has seemingly reached a crescendo this month. We reach an agreement in principle to transfer ownership of our fresh sprout business to an awesome employee - Kathy - in a rent to own/no risk scheme. We also can take the angst no longer. Lori & Gil will devote all of their time to running the seed/supply business and fighting the forces which would make sprouts extinct. Lori and Gil will still grow sprouts at home and for the Dane County Farmer's Market.
November 1, 1999: Gil posts pages to the website, prints letters, talks on ABC Madison, seeks investigative reporters around the country and talks to 50 people on the phone in an effort to stop the FDA from killing the Certified Organic sprout industry (there are only a few of us) while increasing the US's annual pollution by bleach phenomenally.
The Fight Continues!
There are no links here because you MUST proceed to the FDA vs. Sprouts page - PLEASE.
Though the deadline for comments: December 13, 1999
has passed, continue to send your feelings to FDA.
Make the FDA do the right thing or Organic Sprouts will be a thing of the past =:-<
Get back to Sproutpeople's Sprout Politics page