Survey of Sprout Growers in California

A Survey of Sprout Growers in California

Technical Abstracts T33,  JENNIFER THOMAS, Mary Palumbo, Dean Cliver, Jeff Farrar, and Thomas Farver, California Dept. of Health Services, Food and Drug Branch, Emergency Response Unit, 601 N. 7th St. MS#357, Sacramento, CA 94234, USA

Since 1995, nine Salmonella and two E. coli O157:H7 foodborne outbreaks have implicated raw vegetable sprouts as the source of the infection. To reduce the numbers of sprout-related outbreaks, the US FDA published Guidance for Industry: Reducing Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Sprouting Seeds, in 1999. Between October 2000 and April 2001, 61.5% (16/26) of the commercial sprout firms in California were enrolled in a survey to evaluate the industry practices of California sprouting operations and to determine compliance with FDA guidelines. A standardized questionnaire was used to collect data on firm demographics and seed disinfection practices. Additionally, free chlorine levels of the seed disinfection solution were measured and 48-h spent irrigation water samples were collected from each firm. The irrigation water was screened forSalmonellaand E. coli O157:H7 using FDA recommended test kits. Free chlorine levels in the treatment solution ranged from 50 ppm to 35,000 ppm with a median of 14,000 ppm. Free chlorine levels were higher in firms producing alfalfa sprouts compared to those pro-ducing only mung beans or soybeans (P= 0.03). Firms using calcium hypochlorite tended to have higher median levels of free chlorine compared to firms using sodium hypochlorite as the treatment solution (P= 0.067). Irrigation water samples screened for Salmonella were negative (32/32). Of the irrigation water tested for E. coli, 75% (24/32) were negative and 25% (8/32) of the tests resulted in a presumptive positive. The eight presumptive positives were negative after further testing using BAM procedures.