Bean sprout link to salmonella outbreak

Fifteen confirmed cases in South West

Microbiologists at the Health Protection Agency’s Centre for Infections (CFI) have confirmed the link between contaminated bean sprouts and 165 cases of Salmonella Bareilly in the UK, with 15 in the South West.

Specialists in the CFI’s Salmonella Reference Unit report that the strain of Salmonella Bareilly isolated from a bean sprout sample is indistinguishable from the strain of S. Bareilly isolated from human samples.

Bean sprouts had already featured strongly in a case control study in which people who had suffered from S. Bareilly infection and controls (people who did not become ill) were questioned about what they had eaten prior to the onset of illness.

However, both the HPA and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) stress that bean sprouts are safe to eat provided that they are washed and cooked until piping hot before consumption or are clearly labeled as ready-to-eat.

Dr Deirdre Lewis Regional Epidemiologist for the HPA in the South West, said: “The HPA has established a national outbreak control team comprising representatives from the agency, the FSA, Health Protection Scotland and Environmental Health Officers from a number of local authorities to investigate the source of this infection.

“As time went on investigations showed increasingly strong evidence of an association with bean sprouts in this outbreak. Now we have results from microbiological sampling to corroborate the findings of the epidemiological studies. The link with bean sprouts has been established.

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“However, no one should be put off eating bean sprouts, provided they are properly cooked. The risk is in eating raw or under-cooked bean sprouts. The best advice is to follow the guidance on the packaging, but if there is any doubt or ambiguity about the instructions, cook the sprouts until they are piping hot, the very young and old should only eat bean sprouts which have been cooked until piping hot – even if they are marked as ready to eat.”