May 31, 2020

Linked To Outbreaks, Dumped By Retailers, Sprout Growers Form Safety Group

Last month, Kroger, one of the nation’s largest grocery store chains announced it would no longer carry sprouts because they pose too large a food safety risk. One week later, a handful of sprout growers announced the formation of a new group:   Sprout Safety Alliance.

Sprouts“I am very happy to see this new organization taking a leadership role in addressing sprout safety. Sprouts are a challenging product and it is time for members of the industry to get ahead of the safety issues related to sprouts,” former FDA Commissioner Dr. Les Crawford, said in a statement.

Whether it’s time or about time growers got ahead of food safety issues is for consumers to decide. Sprouts have so long and consistently been linked to foodborne illnesses outbreaks, they have their own moniker: sproutbreaks. There have been an average of two sproutbreaks every year since 1990, sickening  about 125 people each year with E.coli, Salmonella or Listeria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Testing and sanitizing by the growers and safe food handling by the consumer are the critical steps to protect against food-borne illness. Sprouts present a unique challenge because pathogens may reside inside of the seeds where they cannot be reached by the currently available processing interventions,” Payton Pruett, Kroger’s vice president of food safety said in the announcement. Kroger will revisit the policy “when new technologies and practices show that farmers can consistently produce sprout seeds that do not internalize pathogens, and when sprout processing environments can be enhanced for safety and cleanliness,” the statement read.

The Sprout Alliance thinks growers already know how to do this and some have been for years. “Sprout growers who rigorously follow FDA guidelines, and have appropriate GMPs and SOPs in place have multi-year track records of supplying safe sprouts. Strict adherence to the FDA guidelines works,” Dr. Art Davis, a food safety consultant to the Alliance said.

This group of growers hopes to distinguish themselves from growers who don’t follow FDA guidelines for sprout growers, guidelines that were established in 1999 and have been widely ignored since.

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