E. Coli: The problem is industrial livestock
Don’t blame the sprouts. The E. coli strain causing death and illness in Germany, and other strains, originate in livestock and typically are spread through improper handling of manure. Two recent columns provide helpful details on the latest manifestation of an industrial food system. First German authorities blamed a source in Spain, then retracted that. Then they blamed an organic sprout operation, but could provide no evidence. Sprouts can indeed provide a hazardous production environment. But, again, the primary source of E. coli is livestock, and industrial livestock production continues to be a huge source of water pollution, which then spreads to other points in the food system.
Mark Bittman of the New York Times provides a summary of the strains of e. coli in a June 7 column titled, “Don’t Blame the Sprouts!”: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/e-coli-dont-blame-the-sp.... There are more sources of information listed at his blog site: http://bittman.blogs.nytimes.com.
Mark Kastel at Cornucopia Institute fills in additional facts about sprouts and points out that 9 out of 10 known cases of sprout contamination incidents were from non-organic operations: http://www.cornucopia.org (scroll down to report on sprouts).