Sprouts Warning


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FDA orders new growing methods to make sprouts safer
Crunchy raw sprouts are full of nutrition - but they may also carry dangerous bacteria that can cause food poisoning. To make sprouts safe to eat again, the government has ordered farmers to use new growing methods.
The Food and Drug Administration warned Americans last summer not to eat alfalfa, clover and other types of sprouts after confirming that bacteria-laden sprouts caused at least 1,300 illnesses in recent years.
Other research, however, estimates that many more people - up to 20,000 - may have been sickened.
Even healthy people can become ill from sprouts tainted with salmonella or E. coli. But high-risk people - including children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems because of cancer, AIDS or other conditions - could contract life-threatening infections.
FDA senior science adviser Bob Buchanan reiterated the consumer warning Monday but said the government will re-examine its advice in a few months to see if the new growing standards, issued Monday, have made sprouts safer.
"We are not recommending the consumption of raw sprouts" yet, Buchanan said. But if the safety standards are followed, "this will greatly decrease any kind of risk associated with the product."
Growers are not doing anything wrong, Buchanan stressed. Instead, the very conditions that cause seeds to germinate - warm temperatures, with lots of water and nutrients - also spur bacteria growth. Most outbreaks in sprouts have been traced to seeds laden with bacteria that flourish and multiply under the growing conditions necessary for sprouts. (When the same seeds are used for regular crops grown in the hot sun, the germs die off.)
The FDA's new standards are simple ones that some sprouts growers already follow voluntarily:Farmers should cultivate seed under sanitary conditions, including limiting the amount of manure used on crops whose seed will be harvested for sprouts and ensuring irrigation water is clean.
Sprouts growers should disinfect all seed with an FDA-approved method such as a mild bleach solution to reduce surface bacteria.
The most critical step: Test the irrigation runoff after watering sprouts.
If bacteria are present 24-48 hours after the seeds germinate, the germs will get in the water. So testing leftover water will warn growers if a batch is contaminated before the sprouts are sold, Buchanan said.
Test results take about 48 hours, but sprouts typically take four days to grow before harvesting. So if growers test on time, they will know the results before deciding whether to harvest each batch.
The FDA developed the standards in conjunction with food scientists at
The FDA is giving growers 60 days to implement the standards, and then will send out inspectors to ensure they are followed.


15.0 servings


Saturday, February 13, 2010 - 8:43pm



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