Alfalfa and clover sprouts were to blame for more than half of confirmed foodborne illnesses reported in California between 1996 and 1998, according to a study published last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The study investigated six
multi-county outbreaks of bacterial infections
and found 600 confirmed cases of disease and
two deaths associated with eating sprouts. The
study also estimates an additional 22,800
people were infected, but never fingered
sprouts as the cause.
During the study
period, sprouts caused more outbreaks of E.
Coli O157:H7 and Salmonella than any
other food or source, including meat, eggs and
Seeds from which the
sprouts are grown are typically the source of
the bacteria. To grow sprouts, the seeds are
put in a rotating drum, misted with warm water
and left at room temperature, providing a
perfect incubator to increase the population of
any bacteria that may be present. Since
sprouts are most often eaten raw on salads or
sandwiches, the bacteria remains intact.
recommends cooking the sprouts to kill the
bacteria. Merely washing the sprouts is not
adequate as the bacteria can become
internalized during sprouting, according to
Alfalfa, Clover Sprouts Implicated in E. Coli, Salmonella Outbreaks, Study SaysWednesday, August 29, 2001