Make Our Food Safe
06/10/2011

"Sprouts, poster plant of health food, can pack disease risks"

New York Times | William Neuman

"Sprouts are a fixture of salad bars and the epitome of health food to many people. But the reality can be very different.

As a horrified Europe learned over the past month, sprouts are a high-risk food for carrying harmful bacteria like salmonella or the toxic forms of E. coli, according to public health experts.

This year, at least two American growers have recalled sprouts contaminated with salmonella, and outbreaks of illness from tainted sprouts have occurred so often in the United States that health investigators have a special name for them: sproutbreaks.

Many sprout growers try to kill pathogens by soaking their seeds before germination in a concentrated chlorine solution, similar to but much stronger than the disinfectant used in swimming pools. While the Food and Drug Administration recommends a sanitizing step like the chlorine treatment, it does not require it and some growers skip it or use less stringent methods..."

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