Sprouted seed suppliers are expected to take another step towards recovery from last year’s deadly E.coli outbreak when new best practice guidelines for the industry are published next month.

The guidelines are being developed by the Fresh Produce Consortium in conjunction with the Food Standards Agency, and will set out best standards for sourcing and producing sprouts safely as well as advice on how to reduce the risk of contamination.

The guidance will be voluntary, but FPC CEO Nigel Jenney said he expected wide adoption. “Many businesses have already adopted these practices, but this will be the first time standards are set out as new industry guidelines,” he said, adding that he expected the guidelines to be published in “not more than a month”.

News of their launch comes as the EC is considering whether to introduce new legislation to improve standards in the sprouted seeds sector. Jenney said the FPC/FSA initiative showed the UK industry was “ahead of the curve” of other EU member states in acting proactively and responsibly and that he hoped new legislation could be avoided.

Last year’s E.coli outbreak in Germany was ultimately traced back to fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt, sparking weeks of bad publicity for sprouted seeds suppliers and leading to some products being delisted temporarily in the mults.

Separately from the new guidelines, the FPC is talking to auditing bodies to determine whether it would be possible for sprouted seed producers and suppliers to be audited against key standards.

Jenney would not be drawn which auditing bodies the FPC was talking to, but these are likely to include the British Retail Consortium and Red Tractor Assurance.