May 25, 2024

FDA Releases Food Safety Guidance For Producing Sprouts

The FDA has released its final food safety guidance for producing sprouts. That ingredient has been linked to many outbreaks over the years, including a Salmonella outbreak earlier this year caused by Sun Sprouts alfalfa sprouts that sickened at least 63 people in eight states and hospitalized 10 of those patients.

FDA Releases Food Safety Guidance For Producing Sprouts

The 2023 Final Guidance updates and finalizes these sections of the original draft guidance that was issued in 2017: Cleaning and Sanitizing, Agricultural Water in Sprout Operations, Seeds for Sprouting, Environmental Monitoring, and Recordkeeping. Some sections of the 2017 document have been reissued and one new section is in the revised guidance. The update and new sections are on Equipment, Tools, and buildings, Sampling and Teting of Spent Sprout Irrigation Water, and Personnel Qualifications, Training, and Hygienic Practices.

This guidance is part of the Produce Safety Rule, which establishes requirements addressing common routes of microbial contamination. Sprouts are a food safety concern because of the conditions under which they are grown. The seeds are grown at room temperature, at neutral pH, and in a wet environment, which are all conducive to bacterial growth.

In fact, the seeds themselves are often contaminated, which means that when they sprout, bacteria grows. Other factors that have led to contamination and outbreaks included poor sanitation and production practices in the sprout growing facilities.

Between 1996 and 2020, there were 52 outbreaks linked to raw or undercooked sprouts that sickened at least 2,700 people, caused 200 hospitalizations, and lead to three deaths. The pathogens that caused these illnesses included Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and E. coli O157 as well as non-O157 E. coli strains.

Interested parties can submit comments on the Final Guidance at The docket number is FDA-2017-D-0175. These comments should be submitted within the next 180 days.


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