Formation of New Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science Announced

A group of sprout growers from across the United States have joined together to form the Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science, a new alliance for sprout growers, seed suppliers and industry-related parties that are dedicated to following rigorous food safety practices.

“I am very happy to see this new organization taking a leadership role in addressing sprout safety. Sprouts are a challenging product and it is time for members of the industry to get ahead of the safety issues related to sprouts,” said Dr. Les Crawford, former Commissioner of FDA.

In 1999, FDA published “Guidance for Industry:  Reducing Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Sprouted Seeds.” Almost all of the outbreaks since FDA’s guidance were due to failure to follow those FDA guidelines. Lack of compliance hurts the entire industry.

“Sprout growers who rigorously follow FDA guidelines, and have appropriate GMPs and SOPs in place have multi-year track records of supplying safe sprouts. Strict adherence to the FDA guidelines works,” said Dr. Art Davis, a food safety consultant to the Alliance.

“The sprouting industry knows how to produce safe sprouts,” said Dr. Jeffrey Sholl, President of The Vista Institute. “Problems occur when a sprouter doesn’t comply with safe growing practices.  We wanted to form an alliance of growers that are not only prepared and dedicated to complying with government guidelines, but able to meet additional rigorous standards that the Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science are developing.” Alliance Members will be required to adopt a verification system to ensure compliance.

The Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science will have three major functions:

  1. Develop, maintain and provide verification for a set of science-based operating standards that represent best current knowledge on how to grow safe sprouts.
  2. Provide a common communication channel to get important and factual messages regarding sprouts out to the trade and consumers.
  3. Invest in important scientific research, training and education.

“We are proactively creating an Alliance of members who are dedicated to taking an aggressive and active role in creating and adopting more rigorous science-based food safety standards,” said Steffanie Smith, a partner in California Sprouts and former chair of United Fresh Produce Association.

Alliance members are differentiating themselves from an industry plagued with preventable outbreaks.  “We have watched the sprout industry struggle under the impact of these individual outbreaks and we are very happy to be taking a leadership role in the formation of this new Alliance.  The Alliance will provide the trade and customers with a real choice in sprout production.” said Dave Pearson, President of Pearson Foods.

The Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science’s representatives to the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Sprout Safety Alliance (www.iit.edu/ifsh/sprout_safety/) and Sprout Safety Task Force will be Dr. Susan Harlander and Ms. Kristin Colony from The Vista Institute.  “While we applaud the efforts of the IIT Sprout Safety Alliance in developing a core curriculum, training and outreach programs for the sprout production community, some sprouters in the industry feel an immediate need to move forward with more rigorous compliance with enhanced food safety programs,” said Dr. Harlander.

The Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science welcomes  all companies in the industry, who are willing to comply with the Alliance Standards Program, to join the program. All companies seeking membership in the Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science are required to undergo a variety of steps to become eligible for membership and then strict Alliance standards must be met on an ongoing basis to maintain membership.

Founding Alliance members include California Sprouts, Caudill Sprouting, Friend Fields, Hanover Foods / Sunsprouts of Lancaster County, Lifeforce Foods, Pearson Foods, Sprouters NW, Sprouts Extraordinaire and The Vista Institute.

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