Experts examine control measures to prevent health risk of sprouted seeds 30 Jan 2012
Following last year's E. Coli O104 outbreak in Europe which were linked to supplies of European fenugreek seeds, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) declared that sprouted seeds pose food safety concerns due to their potential for contamination. Over the last two weeks, European experts have met on two occasions, first to discuss new control measures to prevent another outbreak from occuring and second, the introduction of control measures to improve sprouted seed safety.
Sprouted seeds pose unique microbiological food safety concerns because the conditions needed for germination and sprouting are ideal for bacteria to flourish. If the seeds are contaminated by even a small amount of pathogenic bacteria during the production chain, the health risk can grow substantially before the product reaches a consumer.
Earlier this month, a meeting of the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) led to heightened concerns about the safety of sprouted seeds. Last week, experts from EU Member States, including the FSA, met to discuss possible control measures to improve the safety of sprouted seeds. One such potential measure is the use of irradiation, which would require a change in EU law. Members of the EU hope to reach a quick outcome which will lead to the improvement of food safety in Europe.