Sunday, June 26, 2011


Authorities in an increasing number of countries are coming out with the same warning: don't eat sprouted seeds raw. That applies to not just alfalfa, bean sprouts and other legume seeds, but also sprouted grain seeds and others such as mustard, radish, broccoli, sesame, fenugreek, and more.

Throughout the years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has repeatedly warned people at high risk not to eat sprouted seeds raw, and at times (as in 2009) elevated this warning to include everyone. The German government now has a similar warning out. The British FSA issued a revised and strengthened warning yesterday: "As a precaution, the Agency is advising that sprouted seeds should only be eaten if they have been cooked thoroughly until steaming hot throughout; they should not be eaten raw."

Sprouted seeds have been recognized as unsafe for decades because of the fact that they commonly carry disease-causing bacteria. Very few people in public health eat them raw for that reason. What has got governments particularly concerned is the recent huge and deadly German outbreak of a very rare and super-toxic strain of E.coli linked to bean sprouts. Now there is a much smaller outbreak of deadly E.coli in a suburb of Bordeaux in Germany, that is also being blamed on contaminated sprouted seeds. A less toxic E.coli was found in beet sprouts in the Netherlands earlier in June of this year. In the United States there are regular outbreaks linked to sprouted seeds, usually alfalfa, and most often, of Salmonella bacteria. In fact there were outbreaks in January, February, March and April of this year (see post of June 5).

Cooking would destroy most of these bacteria. But let's face it, sprouted seeds don't always taste as pleasant when cooked, and no longer add a decorative touch to food. I searched for ideas and recipes on line to see if there was any way to make cooked sprouted seeds appealing. Clearly some kinds of sprouts lend themselves to cooking better than others. Here are some ideas: azuki bean sprouts cooked in chili, cooked mung bean sprouts in miso soup, mung bean or alfalfa sprouts cooked in stir-fried vegetables, alfalfa sprouts cooked mixed in with sauteed potatoes, lentil sprouts cooked in lentil soup or lentil salad, garbanzo bean sprouts or soybean sprouts cooked in soup, alfalfa sprouts in baked goods.

Some recipes suggest very light cooking of the sprouted seeds: adding sprouts to a dish at the very last minute, and cooking for no more than 30 seconds. The results might be better from a taste, texture and visual appeal perspective, but such quick cooking may not always bring the sprouts to the temperature required to kill bacteria (165 degrees F), particularly if the dish is not stirred well. Note the above warning of the British FSA refers to thorough cooking "until they are steaming hot."

To your good health,


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