CONSUMERS ADVISED OF
RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH RAW SPROUTS
WASHINGTON DC (www.SafetyAlerts.com) - Because of reports of increasing
numbers of illnesses associated with consumption of raw sprouts, the
Food and Drug Administration is advising all persons to be aware of the
risks associated with eating raw sprouts (e.g., alfalfa, clover,
radish). Outbreaks have included persons of both genders and all age
categories. Those persons who wish to reduce the risk of foodborne
illness from sprouts are advised not to eat raw sprouts.
This advice is particularly
important for children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune
systems, all of whom are at high risk of developing serious illness due
to foodborne disease. People in high risk categories should not eat raw
This advisory is updated from
a previous health advisory issued August 31, 1998, and is based on
additional information from clover and alfalfa sprout-associated
salmonellosis outbreaks from January through May 1999. Two outbreaks
were associated with clover sprouts: one occurred in California in May
and involved approximately 30 cases; a second outbreak in Colorado from
March through May involved approximately 70 cases. In addition, from
January through March an outbreak of salmonellosis affecting
approximately 85 people occurred in Oregon, Washington, and California
and was associated with the consumption of alfalfa sprouts
Since 1995, raw sprouts have
emerged as a recognized source of foodborne illness in the United
States. These illnesses have involved the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella
and E. coli O157. Alfalfa and clover sprouts have been involved most
often, but all raw sprouts may pose a risk.
The sprout industry has been
working in cooperation with government, academia, and other industry
segments to enhance the safety of its product. These efforts have
focused primarily on seed treatment strategies, good manufacturing
practices, and sanitation.
"Despite all these
efforts to make raw sprouts safer, we continue to receive reports of
illnesses associated with raw sprouts. Consumers need to understand
that, at this time, the best way to control this risk is not to eat raw
sprouts," said Jane E. Henney, MD, FDA Commissioner.
Although infections with
Salmonella and E. coli O157 can cause serious illness, the illness is
generally self-limiting in most healthy adults. However, an E.coli O157
infection can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome with resultant kidney
failure or death in children, and equally serious complications in the
elderly. Salmonella infections can cause serious illness in children,
the elderly and the immune compromised. Healthy persons infected with
these bacteria experience diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping and fever
for several days.
FDA offers the following
advice to all consumers concerning sprouts:
- Cook sprouts. This
significantly reduces the risk of illness.
- Check sandwiches and salads
purchased at restaurants and delicatessens. These entr?es often
contain raw sprouts. Consumers who wish to reduce their risk of
foodborne illness should specifically request that raw sprouts not
be added to their food.
- Sprouts grown in the home
also present a risk if eaten raw. Many outbreaks have been
attributed to contaminated seed. If pathogenic bacteria are present
in or on seed, they can grow to high levels during sprouting even
under clean conditions.
Outbreaks and Statistics
FDA will closely monitor the
safety of sprouts and will take further actions, including the
establishment of preventive controls, as necessary to protect consumers.
Consumers who have eaten raw
sprouts and are experiencing diarrhea or other symptoms of foodborne
infections are advised to consult their health care providers.