Monday, October 12, 2009
Since 1995, raw sprouts have emerged as a significant source of foodborne illness in
the United States. These illnesses have involved the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella
and E. coli. Alfalfa, clover, and mung bean sprouts have been involved most
frequently, but all raw sprouts may pose a risk.
For most outbreaks, the source of contamination appears to have been the seed.
Even if the seed is contaminated, pathogen levels are typically very low, so contamination can easily be missed depending on the nature of the seed-testing program. The best conditions for sprouting are also ideal for multiplication of pathogenic bacteria if they happen to be present on the seed. Even if the seed are only lightly contaminated, Salmonella and E. coli levels can increase to millions of cells per serving during the sprouting process.
Because illnesses from these organisms can range from mild to extremely
unpleasant and even to very severe in susceptible persons, the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration and the California Department of Health Services have issued warnings
Food and Drug Administration is advising all persons to be aware of the risks
associated with eating raw sprouts (e.g., alfalfa, clover, radish). Outbreaks have
included persons of both genders and all age categories. Those persons who
wish to reduce the risk of foodborne illness from sprouts are advised not to eat
This advice is particularly important for children, the elderly, and persons with
weakened immune systems, all of whom are at high risk of developing serious
illness due to foodborne disease. People in high-risk categories should not eat
raw sprouts. Cooked sprouts can be eaten if heated to steaming hot or above
165°F (74°C). This type of treatment is most applicable to mung bean sprouts.
Posted by Ron at 7:32 PM