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US Warning About Salmonella in Sprouts was Prudence, Not Panic

27.jul.99, Douglas Powell, The Toronto Star

27.jul.99, Douglas Powell, The Toronto Star
On the same day (July 14) that I was reading your article about the supposed inherent safety of Canadian sprouts (Canadian sprout market drooping - 'Panic reaction' to U.S. warnings about toxins in raw sprouts has hurt sales), an advisory was issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It warns Canadians not to consume Living Foods and Sprouts Alive brand alfalfa sprouts with the lot number EX/07/13 because they may contain Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria.  The sprouts were grown by Living Foods of Camrose, Alta., and sold in 140-gram packages and food service bags. They may have been distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.  The release says that Klebsiella pneumoniae may cause gastrointestinal illness in humans. The illness may be characterized by prolonged flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, fever, stomach cramps and watery diarrhea.  Young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.  To suggest that organically-grown, or Canadian, or indeed any raw sprouts are somehow safer than others, has no basis in reality, in the absence of microbial testing - a point acutely lacking in the article.  Salmonella bacteria are ubiquitous, far more prevalent than simply the manure that may be used to foster plant growth.  What about birds flying overhead? They carry salmonella.  What about the quality of the water used to nurture the plants? And if the seeds come into human contact during harvest, what of the sanitary habits of the workers?  The advisory from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the actions undertaken by the U.S. sprout industry to develop a solution should be praised rather than decried as a "panic."  Tell it to the 196 people who were the confirmed cases of salmonellosis from sprouts mentioned in the article.