Sprouts are such a health foodie staple that they’re almost cliche. A popular addition to salads, sandwiches and stir-fries, raw sprouts are high in enzymes, vitamins, proteins and phytochemicals; low in calories, fat and carbohydrates; easy to grow in home kitchens; and vary wildly in taste (anyone who doesn’t believe sprouts can be tasty has probably only eaten the basic, salad-bar alfalfa & bean variety; try some daikon radish sprouts). They’re also rampant bacteria-mongers.
This weekend, German officials announced that sprouts were behind the recent European E.coli outbreak after all — and this is far from an isolated incident. Sprouts have apparently been a common culprit in a whole host of e. coli and salmonella outbreaks. Because they’re grown in water from seeds, sprouts are easy targets for bacteria. The FDA counts 30 outbreaks of disease from contaminated sprouts since 1996. A food safety expert told the Associated Press that people should put sprouts in the same risky-foods category as they would unpasteurized milk or oysters.
But what if you avoid commercially grown sprouts and simply sprout your own? You could still be in trouble if the sprout seeds themselves are infected. Germs can live inside sprout seeds as well as outside, so even if you’re super-sanitary in sprouting them, bacteria could profligate. The only way to really safely consume sprouts, it seems is to cook them thoroughly first.
If you are going to eat raw sprouts, the FDA offers these tips:
- Buy only sprouts kept at refrigerator temperature. Select crisp-looking sprouts with the buds attached. Avoid musty-smelling, dark, or slimy-looking sprouts.
- Refrigerate sprouts at home.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw foods.
- Rinse sprouts thoroughly with water before use. Rinsing can help remove surface dirt. Do not use soap or other detergents.
The FDA also recommends that children, the elderly and pregnant women stay away from raw sprouts entirely.
Photo Via AtelierJoly