Four Groups Should Never Eat Raw Sprouts

Portrait of young pregnant female with hands on stomach and looking at viewer.

In light of yesterday’s report on salmonella-contaminated alfalfa sprouts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to remind consumers that certain populations should avoid eating organic or nonorganic raw sprouts of any kind:

  1. Children
  2. The elderly
  3. Pregnant women
  4. Individuals with weakened immune systems

Alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts are included on the list, among other varieties. 

People who fall into the affected groups should check salads and sandwiches purchased at restaurants and delicatessens to ensure raw sprouts are not added to prepared foods.

Warning Explained

Bacteria can enter sprout seeds through cracks in the shells before they’re grown—and the pathogens are nearly impossible to wash out. Sprouts grown in the home are also risky if eaten raw.

If pathogenic bacteria are present in or on the seed, they can grow to high levels during sprouting, even under clean conditions.

Many salmonella outbreaks have been linked to contaminated seeds. As with most foodborne illnesses, children, the elderly, pregnant women and immunocompromised patients are more susceptible to infection and poor outcomes.

Cooking sprouts can reduce the risk of illness.

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