If you grow your own, are they safer?
If you grow your own, are they safer?
"Lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers should be eaten again -- it is all healthy produce," Reinhard Burger
It was the sprouts that were killing people, from a source in lower Saxony.
When eating any raw vegetables, they should be thoroughly washed.
“Sprouting is the practice of germinating seeds to be eaten either raw or cooked. They are a convenient way to have fresh vegetables for salads, or otherwise, in any season and can be germinated at home or produced industrially. Sprouts are believed to be highly nutritious and rich in enzymes which promote good health. They are a prominent ingredient of the raw food diet and common in Eastern Asian cuisine. Sprouting is also applied on a large scale to barley as a part of the malting process. A downside to consuming raw sprouts is that the process of germinating seeds is conducive to bacterial growth, resulting in dozens of outbreaks of lethal infection with Salmonella and E. coli over the past few decades.
Risks and antinutritional factors
Public attention has been drawn to the safety of commercial sprouts. There have been outbreaks of Escherichia coli infection from alfalfa sprouts grown from contaminated seeds or unhygienic production with high microbial counts.  To minimize the impact of the incidents and maintain public health, both theU.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada issued industry guidance on the safe manufacturing of edible sprouts and public education on their safe consumption.  There are also publications for hobby farmers on safely growing and consuming sprouts at home.  
On June 10 it was confirmed by Robert Berger the head of the Robert Koch Institute that bean sprouts are the source of the European E.Colo outbreak, and that people who ate the bean sprouts were nine times more likely to have bloody diarrhea.
Commercially produced raw sprouts have been associated with foodborne illness. The FDA released a guidance document, entitled "Guidance for Industry: Reducing Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Sprouted Seed" (the "sprout guidance"). The sprout guidance identifies a number of areas, from the farm to the sprout facility, where FDA believes immediate steps should be taken to reduce the risk of sprouts serving as a vehicle for foodborne illness and to ensure that sprouts are not adulterated under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the act). Specific recommendations in the sprout guidance include: development and implementation of good agricultural practices and good manufacturing practices in the production and handling of seeds and sprouts, seed disinfection treatments, and microbial testing before product enters the food supply.
Seeds disinfected with contrast water resulted in better disinfection combined with better germination rate.
Some legumes can contain toxins or antinutritional factors, which can be reduced by soaking, sprouting and cooking (eg, stir frying). Joy Larkcom advises that to be on the safe side “one shouldn’t eat large quantities of raw legume sprouts on a regular basis, no more than about 550g (20oz) daily”. However not all legume sprouts contain these antinutritional factors and many have beneficial properties so it is recommended that the advice of a qualified nutritionist is sought before making any decisions about what to include or eliminate from a diet.”
“Germany: Sprouts Cause of E. Coli Outbreak
Published June 10, 2011
Berlin – Investigators have determined that German-grown vegetable sprouts are the cause of the E. coli outbreak that has killed 29 people and sickened nearly 3,000, the head of Germany's national disease control center said Friday.
Reinhard Burger, president of the Robert Koch Institute, said even though no tests of the sprouts from an organic farm in Lower Saxony had come back positive for the E. coli strain behind the outbreak, an investigation into the pattern of the outbreak had produced enough evidence to draw the conclusion.
"In this way, it was possible to narrow down epidemiologically the cause of the outbreak of the illness to the consumption of sprouts," Burger said at a press conference with the heads of Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and Federal Office for Consumer Protection. "It is the sprouts."
The breakthrough in the investigation came after a task force from the three institutes linked separate clusters of patients who had fallen sick to 26 restaurants and cafeterias that had received produce from the organic farm.
"It was like a crime thriller where you have to find the bad guy," said Helmut Tschiersky-Schoeneburg from the consumer protection agency.
"They even studied the menus, the ingredients, looked at bills and took pictures of the different meals, which they then showed to those who had fallen ill," said Andreas Hensel, head of the Risk Assessment agency.
Hensel said authorities were lifting the warning against eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, and explicitly urged consumers to start eating those vegetables once again.
"Lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers should be eaten again -- it is all healthy produce," he said.
Burger said it was possible that all of the tainted sprouts have either been consumed or thrown away by now, but still warned that the crisis is not yet over and people should not eat sprouts.
While the farm in the northern German village of Bienenbuettel that has been blamed for the outbreak was shut down last Thursday and all of its produce recalled, the experts said they could not exclude the possibility that some tainted sprouts were still being used by restaurants or cafeterias and people could still get infected with E. coli.
Also, since it has not yet be established why the sprouts were bad -- whether the seeds had been contaminated or the farm's water -- the experts said it was possible that other nearby farms could also be affected.
Germany has been the epicenter of the outbreak, with 2,808 sickened, 722 of whom are suffering from a serious complication that can cause kidney failure. The World Health Organization says 97 others have fallen sick in 12 other
European countries, as well as three in the United States.
In recent days the numbers of people being reported ill have been dropping, but it was not clear whether the epidemic was waning or consumers were just successfully shunning tainted vegetables.
David Acheson, former chief medical officer of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told NPR's All Things Considered that tests proving the exact source of an E. coli investigation are often elusive, so conclusions have to be drawn from the pattern of the outbreak.
"We, in the U.S., reacted many times appropriately to solid epidemiology without actually having a positive sample, like spinach in 2006, which was obviously a massive E. coli outbreak," he said.
The sprouts were initially blamed for the outbreak on Sunday, but authorities backpedaled the following day after lab tests came in negative and there was not yet enough epidemiological evidence.
During the course of the investigation, non-lethal E. coli was also found on cucumbers from Spain and beet sprouts from the Netherlands.
Most Recommended Comment
Troutville, Virginia, United States