E-Coli: A Tragic German Double Standard

So, now it looks like it really was the beansprouts (see guardian here) Those Spanish cucumbers were innocent after all.

Thirty-one dead. Three thousand infected (and rising). Many left in need of kidney transplants. A terrible catalogue of tragedy which, unfortunately, is far from closed.

It also looks like it was all too predictable. Beansprouts were responsible for a similar outbreak (though this time Salmonella) in the UK in 2010. In fact between 1973 and 2007 Beansprouts were responsible for no less than 37 major outbreaks of food poisoning from either salmonella or e-coli across the world.  (See Here).

That number of course, excludes the UK outbreak or the latest German disaster.

Uncooked "Organic" bean sprouts:- The symbolic food of the Green movement.

I bet nobody told you (before now) that they can harbour E-Coli not only on the outer extremities but also internally. Washing them for a week may not remove the infection. See Here

Compared to other vegetables, uncooked bean sprouts present a significant health risk (See Here - "Minimising your Risk"). This risk is particularly severe to the young, old and vulnerable.

Beansprouts require scrupulous hygiene from seed to plate. Clearly, in Germany this hygiene regime was seriously compromised somewhere early on in the chain. But nobody actually knows where yet.

All over the world, and especially in Germany, environmentally concerned parents have been feeding raw bean sprouts to themselves and to their kids. They then probably wash them down with some unpasteurised "Whole" milk. (another fad). Meanwhile these same parents have been panicking over nuclear incident, on the other side of the planet, that killed no-one and resulted in a few vegetables getting a barely measurable dose of radiation.

Double standard? I think so.

Beside cooking, there is another way you can ensure uncooked bean sprouts are fit to eat. You can irradiate them with Gamma rays. ( See Here )

Actually this process is quietly used by many hospitals to reduce the risk of patients getting secondary infections from poorly cooked food.  To quote from the above link:

"Food irradiation for a number of produce items would give us not just a marginal increase, but give us probably the Grand Canyon increase of safety.

It was touted as a method for wholesale treatment of vegetables in the 1980's but in the UK it was rejected.

To be fair is is a bit OTT for most fruit and veg.

It's appeal to the food industry was that it would significantly improve shelf life. The fact that it would also protect consumers from a low risk of food poisoning was, at the time, just a bit of useful propaganda.

But never the less, if these bean sprouts had been irradiated they would not have been poisonous.

Thirty one people would not have died.

By the way don't think that the bean sprouts would have become radioactive either. To make something radioactive you need a Neutron source not a Gamma ray source.

Maybe there is an opportunity here for some adventurous German bean sprout producer:

 Ship your sprouts to Holland.

Get them irradiated and them sell the back in  Germany as guaranteed E-Coli free.

Just don't mention that they have been irradiated. The German irrationality over everything nuclear would guarantee certain bankruptcy.


Dioclese said...

So basically you don't die of e-Coli but you get radiation poisoning instead? Sounds good...

I think I'll stick to the Ouzo (Metaxa is too expensive now - it's the same price as reasonable french brandy!)

Mrs D only drinks Hine. It's expensive, but she says if she has to drink shit, she'd rather go without...

BilloTheWisp said...

The trick is, Dioclese that you don't die of e-coli, and you don't get radiation poisoning either because after gamma irradiation there isn't any.
Better, (and simpler) Cook the bloody things.

Metaxa the same price as French Brandy? My God no wonder the Greek have gone bust.

Anonymous said...

Bean sprouts have killed more people this year than nuclear meltdowns and Gulf oil spills combined.
Won't someone think of the children?

My name, not coincidentally, is David Rowcliffe.
Greetings to you, my cousin, from sunny Los Angeles!

BilloTheWisp said...

Well, Hello David!

Believe it or not it is actually sunny here today in the UK as well. Not quite the perpetual sunniness you get in LA but not bad, all the same.

I gather the latest death toll from the e-coli outbreak is 44. But the press have now got bored so you won't be reading much more about it anymore.