Are Sprouts Safe to Eat?
You should ask
Why won't the FDA and USDA create a grading system for seed, like we have for meat, eggs and dairy?
The information presented on this page is old, but all of the information is still true.
We have a 13 (if printed) page report on this topic entitled:
Sprouts Are Safer Than They Want You To Think
We need you to feel safe about sprouting and we feel that the facts show clearly that our seeds are completely safe and that, in fact, sprouts as a whole are much safer than many other food products.
To summarize very briefly there are 2 major facts:
Let's flesh this out a bit shall we - The first basic fact is this:
Even in the worst outbreak of food-borne illness ever attributed to sprouts (a salmonella outbreak of 1995-96), in which just over 700 cases were reported (only a fraction of which claimed they had even eaten sprouts) from which the FDA extrapolated (we prefer guesstimated) 20,000 cases, sprouts made up just 1/3 of 1% of salmonella cases for that year! Look at that again: Based on grossly inflated numbers sprouts only constituted ONE THIRD OF ONE PERCENT of the annual cases!
This year -as of September, 1999 less than 200 cases have been reported, so the supposed illnesses caused by sprouts are radically lower, constituting roughly 1/100th of one percent of annual US cases of salmonella.
It is clear from these numbers (taken from the governments own estimates) that the sprout scare is outrageously out of proportion. Where is the perspective? The problem is just that the sprout industry is so small that it has no lobbyists, not even a PR firm to bring this ridiculous assault to the public's attention. The meat, poultry and dairy industries (responsible for 93% of annual food-borne illnesses according to the FDA and USDA) are wealthy and well lobbied and have a long track record of stopping the FDA and USDA from regulating them. The Clinton administration has made food safety a priority, and since the FDA and USDA are powerless to affect change in the well lobbied industries, they make noise by pushing around small unprotected industries so that the public sees that they are doing SOMETHING.
We see this as ethically devoid and a perfect example of greed run amok! Sprouts are a powerhouse of nutrition. They have been grown by numerous civilizations over the past 5,000 years.
Research proves that sprouts are a veritable fountain of youth. Sprouts abound with antioxidants, they are full of protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids and in some cases reduce cholesterol.
The list goes on and on. The loss of sprouts would be a terrible thing! But, unfortunately the FDA is beholden to the drug companies (many of whose executives are FDA advisors) and it seems possible that such a healthy food as sprouts is seen as a threat to them. After all, if we are healthy we will not purchase so many pills.
The second essential fact is this:
Sprouts grown by Certified Organic Sprout Growers from Certified Organic Seeds have never been blamed for a single illness! While the sprout growers of the US jump through hoops trying to find a safe seed sanitation technique to prevent further outbreaks that basic fact is ignored! Almost all cases of food-borne illness blamed on sprouts have been traced back to the seed. In Organic farming the use of manure is strictly regulated. It must be thoroughly composted (during which all pathogens are killed) and can only be applied to fields at certain times. Raw manure is never used by Certified Organic farmers! It is however used by conventional farmers, many of whom spray it on their fields regularly. Raw manure is also a problem in conventional farming in that animals will be let to graze in fields (alfalfa for example) and the plants in those fields are often let go to seed after the years fodder is harvested and stored (Our sprouting seed is not only certified organic - it is in all cases grown specifically for sprouting and handled accordingly.). The seeds born by those plants are sold to seed houses who sell to anyone who wants this inexpensive seed, whether for planting or for sprouting. So some of the seed used by conventional sprouters is that seed which was not specifically grown for sprouting and which has had contact with raw animal waste. Very Bad!
If all sprouting seed used was grown by certified organic growers specifically for sprouting there would be no more outbreaks! It is obvious that good land stewardship - organic practices - pay off. But farming is now just a business - run by huge corporations who are not about to embrace organics even though all the facts point to it as a much safer way to produce food - both for the planet and for our health as consumers of the foods produced. Instead of acknowledging the safety of certified organic seed, sprout growers around the country are soaking their sprouting seed in toxic levels of bleach in hopes that they will kill any pathogens living on the seed. The level of bleach used in soaking seeds is roughly equivalent to a 50/50 mix of household bleach and water, a concentration 100 times stronger than the USDA's oft recommended "kill" formula , which the EPA had to approve - - and they only approved it for 1 year while other methods were being researched. So while sprout growers are dumping literally hundreds of thousands of gallons of bleach (a known carcinogen and a dioxin which does not break down in nature) weekly, into the waterways and sewers (and eventually aquifers and drinking water sources) of the country, and while scientists search for an alternate solution to the problem of seed sanitation, we stand here screaming for truth, wondering why the obvious solution of certified organic farming is not only not considered - but maligned as well. The ultimate conclusion is this: Greed Rules! The measly 1% of sales organic producers can claim is even too much to be tolerated by those who "can't ever have enough".
We are now in our 40s/50s. We remember roadside farm stands and milk and bread being home delivered. In that recent past food-borne illness was not a problem. It was not a problem because our food came from family farms where there was concern for the land and for the heritage of farming. Now it comes from corporate farms where the only concern is profit! Cows are fed chicken manure and dead cats because it is cheaper (by 5¢ per day per cow) than feeding them soy beans (read this book). We will never see a return to family farms and food safety is an important issue, but because agribusiness runs things now, we are forced to look for solutions to problems that only exist in the first place because these corporate farmers are so damn greedy that they skimp and cut corners everywhere in order to garner an extra penny here and an extra nickel there. When quality and pride were the driving force we lived a much safer and more pleasant life.
We have been growing sprouts for over 6 years - distributing them to stores in 4 states of the upper midwest. And even though we feel 100% certain that our sprouts and the seed we sell are clean and safe, all of the seed we carry is thoroughly tested for bacteria. Our main suppliers not only test the seed, they also test the sprouts as well.
We are a company committed to organic stewardship of our planet, to providing the highest quality seeds available, to educating any and all who wish to learn and to complete customer satisfaction.
The seed we sell you is the same seed we sprout, we know everything there is to know about every lot of seed we use. As we like to say: We Grow 'Em, We Know 'Em!
You happen to have found the planet's greatest source of healthy
and nutritious sprouting seed!
Eat More Sprouts and Grow More Often!
(No it isn't an amusement park)
Articles on Food-borne Illness, GE Foods and FDA
The FDA can take comments on Genetically Engineered Foods
FDA wades into genetically modified foods controversy
November 19, 1999
Greens can harbor illness (USA Today 1/99) - search for title
Sprout Specific Articles
Save The Sprouts
Twin Cities Wellness (10/99)
More Related Articles and Info
Pathogenic Bacteria Primer
Follow links on this page to delve deeper into the science of bacteria
Meat and Poultry Product Recalls:
News Releases and Information for Consumers
The Microbial Safety of Fresh Produce
FDA + USDA Town Meeting 12/97
Proceedings from the Third Annual Federal/State Conference on Food Safety
November 20-21, 1997