’Eating sprouts as part of a healthy diet is like smoking to reduce weight’

Elizabeth Weise of USA Today reports today that public health experts in the U.S. and elsewhere seem none too surprised that the Germans now say sprouts were definitely the vegetable that spread the virulent E. coli bacteria that has killed at least 35 people and sickened more than 3,000 in Europe.

The experts say that raw sprouts, and how they are grown, provide the perfect breeding ground for the growth of foodborne bacteria.

"I have not eaten sprouts for more than 15 years. I’ve always said eating sprouts as part of a healthy diet is like saying you smoke to reduce your weight," says Michael Osterholm, who directs the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

"If we’re in a restaurant and they’ve put sprouts on my sandwich, I will send it back," says William Keene, senior epidemiologist at Oregon’s Public Health Division in Portland. "I’ve told family and neighbors for 15 years not to eat sprouts."

The Food and Drug Administration says "children, the elderly, pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind."

The agency also suggests cooking sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness and requesting "that raw sprouts not be added to your food. If you purchase a sandwich or salad at a restaurant or delicatessen, check to make sure that raw sprouts have not been added."

That still doesn’t reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

An updated table of international sprout-related outbreaks is available at ?http://bites.ksu.edu/sprouts-associated-outbreaks?

This entry was posted in E. coli by Doug Powell. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here.