The objective of the audit was to trace back the possible source of infection of the recent E. coli O104 strain outbreaks in the EU and to evaluate the production and processing conditions for the seeds possibly implicated. The audit was conducted outside of the FVO planned audit programme in response to an emergency situation. The source could not be identified, but irrigation water, presence of polluted canals, proximity of human populations and of animals are potential danger for seeds.
The audit concluded that the system of production for export to the EU does not differentiate between seeds for direct human consumption and seeds for sprouting and there is no evidence of any production or export of seeds intended for sprouting.
The trace-back exercise indicates that the three implicated lots were produced in upper Egypt by the same farmer in separate farms and grown from the same seed under organic conditions. There were discrepancies and omissions in the organic farming and other relevant records that cast into doubt the traceability exercise and the integrity of the lots.
The implicated seeds were grown in small farms in upper Egypt. The irrigation water, presence of polluted canals, proximity of human populations and of animals all pose a potential risk of contamination but the contamination source cannot be identified. The Egyptian investigation, including significant sampling of fenugreek, found no evidence of E.coli O104 presence, although deficiencies in analytical methods, lack of targeted sampling and difficulties in representative sampling in seed lots would explain this.
The report makes a number of recommendations to the competent authorities, aimed at rectifying the shortcomings identified and enhancing the implementation of control measures.