October 5, 2020

What You Need to Know About Raw Sprouts and Food Poisoning

Raw sprouts have been considered a health food for decades. They are crunchy and delicious and full of nutrients. The sprouting process increases the availability of protein, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and vitamins C and K than unsprouted seeds. Unfortunately, the sprouting process also links raw sprouts and food poisoning.

What You Need to Know About Sprouts and Food Poisoning

There have been many Salmonella and E. coli outbreaks linked to raw sprouts in the past few years. These outbreaks have been so numerous that a term was coined about them: sproutbreaks.

The problem is that the seeds are inherently risky. The bacteria can be encapsulated in the seed itself, so cleaning the seeds before sprouting is completely ineffective. Then, when the seeds are sprouted in warm, moist conditions, those bacteria can grow and reproduce at alarming speeds.

In fact, raw sprouts are so problematic that food safety experts including the CDC and FDA recommend that people who are at high risk for serious complications of foodborne illness avoid raw sprouts altogether. The only way to ensure that sprouts are safe is to thoroughly cook them before eating.

If someone in your family is in one of those high risk groups (pregnant women, young children, the elderly, people with chronic health problems, and the immunocompromised) just don’t buy raw sprouts. The chance of cross-contamination between the sprouts or liquid in the package and other foods eaten raw is just too great.

There are currently two E. coli O103 outbreaks linked to raw sprouts that were served at Jimmy John’s restaurants. In fact, many of the sproutbreaks in the past 8 years have been linked to that restaurant chain. One of those ongoing outbreaks has sickened 22 people in Iowa. The sprouts were also sold at sold at HyVee and Fareway Foods grocery stores in that state and allegedly were produced by Sprouts Unlimited.

The second sproutbreak, also caused by E. coil O103, has sickened 39 people in 6 states. Possible sources of the sprouts are Jimmy John’s restaurants in several states and Chicago Indoor Garden clover sprouts, which have been recalled.

So if you are tempted to buy raw sprouts to garnish a salad or add to a sandwich, think again. Raw sprouts and food poisoning is just too common a combination.

Comments

  1. What if you grow your own?

    • Linda Larsen says

      Good question. If the seed is contaminated on the inside, it doesn’t matter who grows it. The sprouts will be contaminated. And there is no way to know which seeds are contaminated with pathogens.

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