Cafe Conversations | Bean sprouts likely cause of Europe’s E Coli outbreak

       Hospitals in northern Germany struggle to provide enough beds and medical care for patients. Thousands of people infected in Europe. Many struggling to survive. Having had our own American version of this type of Outbreak, we know well the ramifications.  Restaurants lost a great deal of money and customers.  Vegetable growers lost millions, some went out of business when the CDC started their investigation.  We can only pray that we never experience the degree to what Germany and Europe have.

Bean Sprouts via AP

        German officials have narrowed the search to an organic sprout farm that served many of the upscale restaurants in Germany.  Not so surprising is that even some of those farm workers had been infected by the E Coli.  Now the farm has been shut down and all fruits, vegetables and even flowers have been recalled.

In the last 15+ years we have seen more than 3  dozen outbreaks of E Coli that were attributed to sprouts. I thought this was quite interesting itself. Saddest yet is, this strain just seems to be especially unforgiving and deadly, attacking the kidneys and eyesight of the young and strong.

    The terrifying E Coli outbreak in Europe appears to have been caused by vegetable sprouts grown in Germany, an agriculture official Sunday as the toll climbed to at least 22 dead and more than 2,200 sickened. Preliminary tests found that bean sprouts and other sprout varieties from an organic farm in the Uelzen area, between the northern cities of Hamburg and Hannover, could be connected to infected people in five German states, Lower Saxony Agriculture Minister Gert Lindemann said. “There were more and more indications in the last few hours that put the focus on this farm,” Lindemann said at a news conference.

     Many restaurants involved in the outbreak had received deliveries of the sprouts, which are often used in salads, Lindemann’s spokesman, Gert Hahne, told The Associated Press.

      In recent days, as health officials tried to pinpoint the source of the unusually lethal outbreak, suspicion fell on lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes, perhaps from Spain. Spanish farmers complained that the accusations were having a devastating financial effect.

      The German farm was shut down Sunday and all of its produce — including fresh herbs, fruits, flowers and potatoes — was recalled. Two of the farm’s employees were also infected with E Coli, Lindemann said. He said 18 different sprout mixtures from the farm were under suspicion — including sprouts of mung beans, broccoli, peas, chickpeas, garlic lentils and radishes. As for how the sprouts became contaminated, Lindemann noted that they are grown with steam in barrels — an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply.

       He said it is possible that the water had been contaminated with E Coli or that the sprout seeds — purchased in Germany and other countries — already contained the bacteria. He said the farmers had not used any manure, which has been known to cause E Coli outbreaks. Lindemann urged Germans to not eat sprouts until further notice. He said authorities could not yet rule out other possible sources and urged Germans to continue avoiding tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce for now.

*excerpts from Associated Press

Cafe Conversations | Working in a Petri Dish. Help!


Germs & More Germy Friends!

Starting a new job is a good thing. Right?  6 fun-filled hours a day in the rain, snow and icy cold wind blowing into, through and around my body. My drafty bus packed to the max with 75+  kids every day. Each a coughing, sneezing, little mucous filled germ carrier. Seems my fate is now sealed. I am working in a Petri Dish.  Help Me!

It was a lovely day. Valentine’s Day to be exact. I started my new job that fateful morning at my local school district. While training I was hired as an aide on the bus route with the “bad kids” no one wanted to be with. Well heck, it can’t be that bad. Or, so I thought.

It has been a couple of years now since I had to be at work at 6am.  Ahh, the butt crack of dawn!  Still looks and smells the same. Rows of buses appear and suddenly I hear the words, “I get on the bus that takes me to you, To my magic bus, Thank you driver, for getting me here, To my magic bus.”  Wierd!   Now, those 70 buses are lined up in a row, humming along in tune.  Walking past in an enormous cloud of diesel exhaust that would make Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore proud.  I love the smell of diesel in the morning. I do?  No!  We now prepare for our early am student pickups. And we are off. We pick up our semi-comatose high schoolers in total darkness. Probably a good thing.  Having been up for some time now, I cheerfully greet them all. In return I do hear a few grunts, “hey how’s it goin” and 1 “morning.”  This is a good day!  My job consists of keeping language in line, hands to yourself, knees and backpacks out of the aisle, pass out kleenex, breath mints, stop food fights and teen meltdowns.  Today I found chunks of gum in my hair.  When did that happen?  Of course there is the occasional boyfriend/girlfriend crisis.  Some days I become parent and/or counselor for a few. The students are dropped 20 feet from the school door, again in total darkness. “Have a great days guys!” Grunts, a couple yeahs and generally pissed off looks are directed at me. Oh, good, they’re awake.

Hi Ho! Hi Ho!

Now, my treat for the day! The elementary students consisting of Young-Fives to 5th graders that are really 9th grader wannabes. Yeah!!  Mostly, these kids are so stinking cute. Daylight breaks on the horizon as we make our way for pick ups. These kids are wide-awake and ready to go. Tiny bodies carrying those enormous backpacks, lunch boxes and favorite things climb up the steps overflowing with shouts of “Hey Miss Barb know what I did? Hey Miss Barb wanna see my picture? And so on. Of course, the 5th graders being 5th graders are their sullen “Don’t even look at me” selves.  Still, all are treated the same regardless of attitude. One student asked me how can I always be so happy? ” Easy, I said, I choose to be happy because I want to be. The student stared at me as if my hair  was on fire!  Breaking the tilted head stare, I stated “We all have choices.  Either we can be happy or not happy.”  So my “little pebble of wisdom” gets tossed  into that Grand Canyon known as the 5th grade mind.  Oh, well.  It’s a start.

So it is now day 5,  the “Strep Monster” comes calling.  Doggone it!  All that coughing, wheezing and hacking came my way. My eyes darted about the bus.  Was it you?  Maybe you?  My mind pointing fingers as I looked up and down the rows. Aha!  It is you isn’t it?  You were out sick for 3 days. I looked at the sweet little face of a first grader.  He smiles at me and waves his little hand.  Oh man!  Why did he have to smile at me.  How can I be mad at that sweet little face?