Prime suspects in E.coli (Escherichia coli) frequent outbreaks around the world are Bean sprouts, including Alfalfa (1997 US Outbreak) and Health authorities are still struggling to find a source for Germany’s E.coli outbreak – that has killed dozens of people and made thousands more sick - after investigators failed to discover traces of the bacteria at an Organic bean sprout farm strongly suspected of growing contaminated vegetables.
Somehow, this new case raises questions about the future of organic growing methods, because of the use of manure, farm slurry and other faeces.
“Bean sprouts are very frequently the cause of outbreaks on both sides of the Atlantic. They’re very difficult to grow hygienically and you have to be so careful not to contaminate them,” said Paul Hunter, a professor of public health at Britain’s University of East Anglia. ”And organic farms, with all that they entail in terms of not using ordinary chemicals and non-organic fertilisers, carry an extra risk.”
E.coli thrive and multiply quickly at temperature around 37˚c, the perfect temperature to grow Bean Sprouts, either by being already present on the seeds, in the water, or can even be imported by the farmer himself, or again from non-properly composted manure.
“The big issue will be for the bean sprout industry, particular the organic side,” said Hunter. ”If you’re growing these non-organically, you can separate them from faeces in a way that is problematic if you are using organic production methods. Organic production of salad stuffs just may not be as safe as non-organic methods.”
The European Food Safety Alert Network said EHEC, or enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, a strain of E. coli that causes hemorrhage in the intestines, was found in organic cucumbers originating from Spain, packaged in Germany, and distributed to countries including Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg and Spain (Source: CNN.com).
WHAT TO DO:
E.coli is usually killed by heat, and not by cold. Freezing vegetables will not kill it.
1. Source: NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17613372)
(2) Vinegar Solution: 150ml for 2.5 litres of water
(3) Never place fresh/defrosting meat/fish above raw vegetables drawers. If there are several drawers at bottom of your fridge, always use the bottom one to defrost food; however, if you do not have the luxury of a big fridge, ALWAYS use a container with a lid and make sure that it does not leak.
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Olivier is a Michelin trained chef, a registered Naturopath and Nutritional Therapist, embracing fully his passion for good food and healthy eating.