July 1, 2022

FDA Issues Final Guidance For Seeds Used For Sprouting

The FDA is issuing final guidance for seeds used for sprouting. The guidance outlines FDA’s concerns over food poisoning outbreaks associated with th consumption of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. The guidance gives firms recommended steps to prevent adulteration throughout the production chain.

FDA Issues Final Guidance For Seeds Used For Sprouting

Between 1996 and 2020, the were 52 reported foodborne illness outbreaks associated with contaminated sprouts. As a result, at least 2700 Americans were sickened. Contamination can occur at any point in the supply chain, but the seeds themselves are the most likely source of contamination in many of these outbreaks.

In 2019 and 2020, an E. coli O103 outbreak linked to raw sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants sickened at least 22 people in Iowa. Another Jimmy Jon’s outbreak, this time caused by Salmonella Montevideo, sickened at least 10 people in three states in 2018. In 2016, a Salmonella Muenchen and Salmonella Kentucky outbreak linked to raw alfalfa sprouts sickened at least 26 people in 12 states. And the list goes on. In fact, the FDA recommends that anyone at high risk for food poisoning complications completely avoid raw sprouts because of inherent risk.

The problem is that the sprouting environment, which is moist and warm, is the perfect environment for bacterial growth. Then, the seeds can have bacteria inside the seed coat, which means that cleaning methods are ineffective.

While the Produce Safety Rule (PSR) includes sprout-specific requirements, the FDA does not considered seed for sprouting covered produce. So the growing, conditioning, and distribution of seed for sprouting is not covered by the PSR.

The final guidance, which is not law and is not enforceable, recommends that everyone in this business become as informed as possible about food safety practices, processes, and procedures followed by the firms that sell seeds. The practices and conditions appropriate for producing seeds for sprouting will have a higher level of food safety precautions than those for producing seed used for other purposes.

Comments

  1. Joseph J Cousminer says

    Can the seeds be irradiated, like spices, or will this inhibit germination?

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