US retailer Kroger will stop selling fresh sprouts today (22 October) over concerns that the vegetable represents a food safety risk.

According to Payton Pruett, Kroger's vice president of food safety, the decision was based on the findings of a "thorough, science-based review" and an "abundance of caution".

"Testing and sanitizing by the growers and safe food handling by the consumer are the critical steps to protect against food-borne illness. Sprouts present a unique challenge because pathogens may reside inside of the seeds where they cannot be reached by the currently available processing interventions," Pruett explained.

The company said that deliveries of sprouts to its distribution centres will end and it will stop buying other foods that are produced on the same equipment as sprouts. The policy will be revised when new technologies and practices show farmers can "consistently" produce sprout seeds that do not "internalise pathogens", the company said.

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Kroger Discontinues Sprouts Due To Potential Food Safety Risk

CINCINNATI, Oct. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) today announced its decision to no longer sell sprouts due to its potential food safety risk.

"After a thorough, science-based review, we have decided to voluntarily discontinue selling fresh sprouts," said Payton Pruett, Kroger's vice president of food safety. "Testing and sanitizing by the growers and safe food handling by the consumer are the critical steps to protect against food-borne illness. Sprouts present a unique challenge because pathogens may reside inside of the seeds where they cannot be reached by the currently available processing interventions. Out of an abundance of caution, the Kroger Family of Stores will no longer sell fresh sprouts or procure other foods that are produced on the same equipment as sprouts."

Pruett added that the company is open to revisiting this policy when new technologies and practices show that farmers can consistently produce sprout seeds that do not internalize pathogens, and when sprout processing environments can be enhanced for safety and cleanliness.

Deliveries of sprouts into Kroger distribution centers and stores will be discontinued on October 22, 2012.

Kroger is a recognized leader in food safety, winning the International Association for Food Protection's prestigious Black Pearl Award for advancing food safety and quality in 2012.

Original source: Kroger