October 25, 2012 — Kroger Inc., the largest grocery store chain in the United States, announced that they will no longer be selling bean sprouts due to a “potential food safety risk.” The sprouts have an inherently high risk of food poisoning and salmonella contamination due to the way they are grown. Bean sprouts have been associated with several massive outbreaks of food poisoning in the last few years, involving thousands of illnesses.
Kroger operates a wide variety of supermarkets, including City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, QFC, Ralph’s, and Smith’s. The company operates about 2,400 stores in 31 states. In banning the sprouts, Kroger joins Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which voluntarily stopped selling the sprouts in 2010. A spokeswoman for the company said that they have sold their remaining stock of the sprouts and they are no longer in any local stores.
According to the CDC, there have been 46 outbreaks of food poisoning associated with bean sprouts between 1990 and 2010. Salmonella was identified in the majority of the outbreaks, but E. coli and Listeria have also been found. At least 2,500 people have been sickened in the U.S.
The problem with bean sprouts is that they are grown in hot, humid conditions — the same conditions in which bacteria thrive. If salmonella are present, the seeds used for the sprouts may contain bacterial pathogens inside the seed itself, making it nearly impossible to decontaminate.
Salmonella food poisoning is a type of gastrointestinal food poisoning that can be deadly, especially for young children, the elderly, and people who have a weak immune system. The bacteria grow in the intestines of humans and animals. Salmonella may be transmitted to foods from improper hand-washing techniques, contaminated water sources, poor agricultural practices, cross-contamination from other foods, and more.
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