Vegetable hunt gathers steam as E. coli hits the United States. Bean sprouts now to blame.

June 7, 2011

It make look harmless but it is actually a perfect killing machine. The BS-1000

Bean sprouts are potentially the most dangerous food in the known universe and possibly the cause of 21 deaths and thousands of hospitalisations across Europe. The problem is that they also might not be. Any vegetable currently lining the shelves of your local supermarket could be the E. coli killer stalking the plates of Europe and now the United States. But the bean sprout is the latest suspect in the vegetable line up.

Germany is focusing its investigations on this often maligned and quite frankly, unliked little vegetable. If it is found to be the cause then its distinctive non-taste and unmistakable boring flavour will have saved the lives of many people, simply because not many people like it. Thankfully the E. coli is not being harboured in strawberries or the death toll could be a lot higher.

Although 40 samples have been taken from a farm in Uelzen, south of Hamburg and 23 of these results are back and all test negative for E. coli, German officials are still holding out that the link is the Uelzen farm and that bean sprouts are the culprit. Meanwhile, the Spanish cucumbers, still licking their wounds, are happy the blame has been shifted from them but still watch interestingly from the sidelines. As the bean sprout theory is investigated, Spanish farmers are claiming compensation from the EU for a complete loss of a seasons crop and Russia still has complete European Vegetable import bans in place.

Why bean sprouts? for one thing they have a history. We are talking serial offender, three strikes and you are out, menace to society here. Check it out. They have been responsible for over 36 cases of E. coli Stateside since 1996 and an outbreak of Salmonella in the UK just last year.

How have bean sprouts succeeded where cucumbers failed? They are a hot bed of bacteria, both in the growing house and in the unsuspecting kitchens in which they are prepared. They are grown in steam at 38 degrees. Steam? Jesus, It’s a bacterial paradise. Steam rooms at 38 degrees, as anyone with sweaty feet will tell you, are a goldmine of fungus, mushrooms and bacteria in around 14 seconds. After being grown in a hive of fungus, it is then eaten raw in salads to try and preserve what little flavour it has. In a spite attack for its sheer blandness, it then gives you E. coli. Maybe.

Why maybe? well, for one, all the fucking tests are negative. Two; the strain of E.coli normally lives inside the stomach of animals. Bean sprouts are not animals. The problem usually comes to fruition, so to speak, when the faeces of infected animals are used as fertiliser. The German farm under suspicion has, through the mouth of managing director Klaus Verbeck (farms have managing directors, not managing farmers these days?), apparently said that “the salad sprouts are grown only from seeds and water, and they aren’t fertilised at all. There aren’t any animal fertilisers used in other areas on the farm either“. Shit.

So, if Bean Sprouts are found to be innocent. Who's next? What's next? Bread?

And three? You don’t want to know three. OK. The bean sprout is a serial offender, responsible for outbreaks of Salmonella, E. coli and God knows what else, but it isn’t the only serial offender. Want to know what else has been responsible for mass outbreaks of E. coli in the past? Really, you want to know? Basically it includes everything in your fridge. Here we go. Hamburgers, kebabs, salami, melons, grapes, apple juice, coleslaw, lettuce, spinach, radish, alfafa sprouts (what the fuck are they?), cheese, milk, yogurt, ice-cream (is there no God?). And its not just food. Swimming pools, lakes, ponds and air-conditioning have all been responsible in the past.

This could take some time.

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