Supermarket operator Kroger (NYSE:KR) has stopped selling fresh sprouts, citing "potential food safety risk."

"Sprouts present a unique [food safety] challenge because pathogens may reside inside of the seeds where they cannot be reached by the currently available processing interventions," said Kroger in a press release. "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."

Kroger has 2,400 stores, in 31 states. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) stopped selling sprouts in 2010.

Since 1973, at least 40 outbreaks of foodborne illness have been linked to sprouts. There have been at least 30 since 1996.