The saga of Germany’s E.coli outbreak continues, but the culprit has finally been identified. After a series of suspects came and went—Spanish cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, slugs, meat—officials have declared sprouts to be the source of the outbreak.
Reinhard Burger of Germany’s national disease control center said that even though tests of sprouts had come back negative for E.coli, the pattern of the outbreak allowed officials to conclude that sprouts were indeed the problem. Burger said that all the tainted sprouts might have been consumed or thrown away by now, but advised people not to eat sprouts. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce have all been cleared and declared safe to eat again.
The outbreak has killed 30 people and sickened nearly 3,000. It’s not the first time sprouts have turned deadly. Food-borne illnesses have been linked to sprouts every year, sometimes in multiple outbreaks. Recent research indicates that people who are at high risk for complications from food-borne illness should avoid raw sprouts—the humid conditions needed to grow sprouts are also ideal for growing bacteria. Salmonella and E.coli and grow to high levels without raising any visual warning signs.