A number of cases of pathogenic E.coli are reported; the identified causal strain is not one which is common in the UK. The spread of illness seems to be wide and the FSA receive numerous reports from different Local Authorities (LA). The common link appears to be mixed sprouted seeds which had been brought via a large supermarket. The company which sprouts the seeds are traced through the records which the supermarket holds. Due to the enhanced requirements in relation to seeds, the company which sprouted the seeds is able to trace the batch supplied to the supermarket back to a consignment of mixed seeds which have been imported from a third country via a wholesale trader.
The consignment of imported seeds has been accompanied with a health attestation stating that they have been produced in compliance with EU requirements. The traceability records enable the LA to trace where the seeds have been imported from. However, the LA will have to determine where the contamination took place. That is, whether the seeds were already contaminated when they were imported, or if the contamination occurred during the processing or supply activities, and why the preliminary testing requirements may not have identified the contamination. If the seeds were contaminated prior to import this has implications for other food businesses supplied with seeds from the same consignment via the importer.
One step back and one step forward
The case study comprises an example of traceability analysis for each business in the sprouted seed supply chain, from importer of the seeds for sprouting to the retailer of the sprouted seeds to the consumer. It is given to illustrate the application of the one step-back and one-step forward requirement for traceability by each business. The application of traceability in practice will depend on the nature and size of a business.