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. Kroger, one of the world's largest retailers, employs more than 339,000 associates who serve customers in 2,425 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's. The company also operates 788 convenience stores, 342 fine jewelry stores, 1,124 supermarket fuel centers and 37 food processing plants in the U.S. Recognized by Forbes as the most generous company in America, Kroger supports hunger relief, breast cancer awareness, the military and their families, and more than 30,000 schools and grassroots organizations. Kroger contributes food and funds equal to 160 million meals a year through more than 80 Feeding America food bank partners. A leader in supplier diversity, Kroger is a proud member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber's Million Dollar Club. SOURCE The Kroger Co.