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He said that the outbreaks were caught because there were large numbers of people getting sick at the same time, in unusual circumstances. But if people bought and ate infected sprouts on their own _ like from a 50-gram (1.76-ounce) packet from a garden center, as was the case in the French outbreak _ their illness would probably be missed.

Health officials warn there could be further outbreaks of the lethal E. coli strain since the tainted fenugreek seeds are still for sale. Experts say people should not grow or eat their own sprouts and that all sprouts should be thoroughly cooked before being eaten.

“If people do not eat raw sprouts, we might not see many new infections,” Hunter said. “But people are very good at ignoring public health advice,” he said. “I wouldn’t bet against more outbreaks.”


Associated Press writers David Rising in Berlin and Gabriele Steinhauser in Brussels contributed to this report.

(This version corrects amount of fenugreek seeds imported into EU to 49,000 tons instead of 3,000.)