Are Sprouts too Dangerous to Eat?
When someone becomes ill with food poisoning, the normal reaction is to mentally catalogue all of the foods they have eaten, and sort them into two groups: safe, and “possible culprit”. What many don’t realize is that sprouts, almost always consumed raw (“uncooked”), should always be sorted into the latter category. Why is that?
For one, sprouts have a long history of being the source of food poisoning outbreaks. Initially identified as a possible common food poisoning source in the 1990s, outbreaks linked to sprouts have become almost routinely common. According to Real Simple, at least one food poisoning outbreak linked to sprouts occurred yearly in the U.S. from 1995 to 2011. In fact, just last year there was an outbreak of Salmonella traced back to Sun Sprout Alfalfa Sprouts, where at least 15 reported being ill – the actual number is likely much higher.
Another reason consumers should always mark sprouts as a “possible culprit” is because of how sprouts are grown and produced. Sprouts are grown in warm, humid conditions. This is the perfect breeding ground for any unwanted bacteria, and can lead to illnesses such as E.coli, Salmonella, or Listeria. Add to that the fact that they are “leafy” or “multi-surfaced” and very difficult to wash. And since these sprouts are almost always served uncooked, especially in sprout sandwiches, the risk of becoming ill from this product is even higher than most.
Another problem with this product that people often fail to recognize is that in many cases, the reason the sprout is contaminated is due to the seeds.
Sprouts are also often grown hydroponically, which means that a product is grown in sand, gravel, or liquid. In the case of sprouts’, according to Real Simple, “sprouts are grown hydroponically in clear water with seeds brought in from fields. One seed with contaminated feces on it can contaminate the water and spread the pathogen. Add to this the fact that if the seeds are contaminated, the sprouts grown from them will be contaminated too (yes, even if you grow your own sprouts at home from purchased seeds).”
It is for this reason that it is extremely difficult to purge the unwanted bacteria from your sprouts unless you fully cook them. And again, almost everyone consumes sprouts uncooked. Smart choice? If you can’t live without them, it would be wise to avoid them as much as possible.
A VITAL WARNING: If you are someone who suffers from a chronic health condition (such as diabetes) or are immunocompromised, or if someone in your household is, avoid sprouts entirely. It is often those who meet one of the conditions discussed above that end up being hospitalized or develop life-threatening conditions due to becoming ill with a foodborne illness. While it doesn’t happen to all, and becoming severely ill still remains uncommon, it does bear the risk of serious, even fatal, outcomes. That is why it is important to take proper health precautions and to always be wary of the foods that are “possible culprits.”