Are Sprouts Safe?
Type those words into any search engine and you will get a large and scary list of articles about the questionability of eating raw sprouts.
Some are downright frightening.
Many of them point to recalls that have happened in recent years.
So what is the truth? Are sprouts safe to eat or not? What can you do to protect yourself and your family?
Here I will discuss the common problems with sprouts, recalls that have happened, and also what to do about it.
So you can have your safety and eat your sprouts too!
The common problems with sprouts.
The first main problem with sprouts is that they are almost always eaten raw. And so this is actually not a problem just with sprouts, but with any food that is eaten in its raw state.
If there are any harmful bacteria on the food, that bacteria has the potential to cause problems when eaten. Raw foods are good for us, for sure, but because sprouts are not cooked, the bacteria can cause food-borne illness.
The second main problem with sprouts is that commercial sprouts are typically grown at room temperature in large drums.
Anyone who has been through a food handler’s class can tell you that room temperature or slightly above is the absolute worst temperature for food to stay at. Especially for long periods of time. According to the USDA’s website, “bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes.” Sprouts are often grown at room temperature for days at a time.
The third main problem is that commercial sprouts are typically rinsed with irrigation water. Ick! I am actually not sure if they really do use irrigation water or if it is just hearsay, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they cut corners on cleanliness. Anytime you move food production to large corporations, there is a higher chance of corner cutting for increased profitability (in my humble opinion).
Why do the farms use these growing practices? Because they get more money in their pocket. To grow all of their sprouts in refrigerators would not be cost effective at all. It would also take much longer to grow to harvestable size because of the colder temperature. And using irrigation water is much cheaper than potable water.
The fourth main problem with commercial sprouts is that they are typically trucked long distances to get to the end user, changing hands many times along the way, and allowing more time for harmful bacteria to grow. Granted, most of this trucking time IS done with refrigerated conditions which is good. There’s that.
Recalls that have happened in the sprout industry.
If you don’t remember the sprout recalls, here is a list of articles to remind you. There has been a myriad of sprout recalls from 2012-2018. These outbreaks are usually plastered all over the news.
But remember, these types of recalls happen with any food industry where the food item is eaten in its raw state.
What to do about it all.
Now, before you get all gloom and doom on me, remember that there is hope!
These types of problems are the exact reason that I LOVE teaching people how to grow more of their own food.
The more food we can grow ourselves means the less dependent we become on large commercial growers. We become more self-reliant.
When there is a food recall going on with romaine lettuce, it’s not a big deal if you have a bunch of greens growing in the garden.
If there is a recall on sprouts, you are good to go if you have sprouting seeds at home and know how to use them!
Talk about an empowering feeling!!
No more fear and no more worry!
To give you some resources about exactly how to grow sprouts at home that are safe, here is an article that I have found helpful in the sprout safety discussion: Homegrown sprouts safety
And here is a really amazing article showing an experiment where they actually inoculated seeds with harmful bacteria such as salmonella and then grew them at room temperature AND at 40 degrees. There was no bacterial growth when grown at 40 degrees: A New Approach to Solving the Problem of Sprout Safety
And so, if you are nervous about sprout safety but still want to eat them, I would highly recommend growing them at home, buying high-quality seeds and GROWING THEM IN THE FRIDGE. Problem solved! They will take longer to sprout and grow but will be much safer because harmful bacteria cannot grow at refrigerator temperatures!
Woohoo! This is a fantastic solution!!
Let’s return to our original question…Are sprouts safe?
I personally believe that growing food at home is totally safe. As long as you are following safe growing practices of course. Of course, you will definitely hear different opinions on the internet.
But I, personally, choose not to live in fear.
I similarly encourage YOU to do whatever you feel is best for you and your family.
I believe that every person has an intuitive voice within themselves to teach them what is right and true for themselves. Trust that inner voice!
To me, it makes sense to grow as much of my own food as possible!
If you would like more information on HOW to grow sprouts at home, click here. I wrote an entire post with detailed instructions just for you!
Sprouting really is a GREAT skill to have in your back pocket!
Let me know your thoughts on the above information. Did I miss any problems with the commercial sprouting industry? Do you feel panicked about food recalls? Have you ever tried home sprouting?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.