UK sprouts firm rejects French E.coli claims

A British company has distanced itself from a French minister's claims that sprouts ordered from the firm were to blame for a recent E.coli outbreak in France.

UK sprouts firm rejects French E.coli claims

But Ipswich-based Thompson & Morgan said it was co-operating with the investigation into the matter.

“Thompson & Morgan is aware of reports regarding an outbreak of E.coli infection affecting a small number of adults in France,” it said in a statement Saturday.

“The company is also aware that an unsubstantiated link has been made between the outbreak and the consumption of sprouting seeds,” added the group, which is based Ipswich, eastern England.

Frederic Lefebvre, French secretary of state for consumer affairs, on Friday linked seed sprouts sold by the company to 10 suspected cases of E.coli poisoning around the region of Bordeaux, southwestern France.

Most of those affected were hospitalised, suffering from bloody diarrhea.

Health authorities in France said that at least six of the 10 people hit there by E.coli were found to have eaten sprouts at a fete.

Lefebvre said the sprouts had been purchased at a Jardiland garden centre in France after having been grown from Thompson & Morgan seeds.

He stressed that a link between the symptoms and the consumption of the sprouts had not been definitively established.

But he called for the company’s mustard and rocket seed sprouts to be withdrawn from sale as a precautionary while tests were carried out.

Thompson & Morgan argued in its statement that “something local in the Bordeaux area or the way the product has been handled and grown, is responsible for the incident,” rather than its seeds.

It added: “The health and safety of the public is always of paramount concern to Thompson & Morgan and we will continue to fully co-operate with all investigations.”

Britain’s Food Standards Agency meanwhile reported no E.coli poisoning cases of its own.

“We have asked for further information from the French authorities… to help us carry out investigations in the UK,” it added.

Meanwhile, European governments are investigating the suspected E. coli poisoning in France for links to the killer outbreak in Germany, according to the European Commission.

“No formal European alert has been launched at this point, one that would mean a ban on sales” of the products concerned, a spokesman for health commissioner John Dalli said on Saturday.

However, “there is an exchange of information under way between France, Britain and Germany” after 10 people were infected near Bordeaux, south-western France.

Health authorities there said tests had shown two out of seven patients hospitalised were infected by the same strain of the disease as that found recently in Germany, which has killed 43 people in Europe.

This latest incident came in the wake of a recent outbreak of a strain of E.coli bacteria in Germany has killed at least 43 people.

Health officials there have blamed organic vegetable sprouts grown in northern Germany.

French health officials have said tests showed two people were infected by the same potentially deadly strain of E.coli as that found recently in Germany.

But they have not said whether there was a link between the two outbreaks.


Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?