Caterers and the public are being advised not to serve or consume uncooked sprouting seeds, such as bean sprouts, after a possible link between the E coli outbreak in France and a UK-based company.
Following the outbreak in Germany, cases have now been found in France, prompting the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to revise its guidance on the consumption of sprouted seeds such as alfalfa, mung beans (usually known as bean sprouts) and fenugreek.
It is advising that sprouted seeds should only be eaten if they have been cooked thoroughly until steaming hot throughout. They should not be eaten raw.
John Dyson, the BHA's food and technical affairs adviser, said: "This advice is for caterers as well as consumers and until the route source of contamination has been found both in France and Germany then the advice is likely to remain in place."
According to the FSA, investigations into the outbreak of E coli in France have suggested a possible link to sprouting seeds from a company based in the UK. The Health Protection Agency is monitoring the situation but no cases have yet been reported in the UK.
Dyson added that the BHA, together with other trade bodies, has met twice with the FSA on the issue.
"We are advising members to follow closely the guidance issued," he said.
The FSA also advised that equipment that has been used to prepare or contain sprouting seeds should be cleaned thoroughly after use, while hands should be washed after after handling seeds intended for planting or sprouting.
By James Stagg
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