Sprouts are those skinny lit­tle veg­etable threads that are high on nutri­tion­als. They begin as seeds. When those seeds are exposed to the right tem­per­a­ture and mois­ture, they ger­mi­nate into very young plants. These ten­der young ten­drils are the edi­ble sprouts.

Com­mon sprout vari­eties include grains, beans or leafy sprouts. Three of the most pop­u­lar bean selec­tions are alfalfa, soy and mung bean sprouts. They can be served raw or lightly cooked.

The crunchy, tasty good­ness of bean sprouts can be incred­i­bly ben­e­fi­cial to over­all health. They are packed with plant pro­tein, con­tain no fat, and are very low in calo­ries.

While sprouts have been a part of East Asian, Indian sub­con­ti­nent and Mid­dle East­ern cui­sine for thou­sands of years, they’ve only recently become pop­u­lar in the rest of the world, includ­ing the West.

Edu­cated fans know that eat­ing sprouts can help pro­mote good health. At the same time, there is quite a bit of debate and dis­agree­ment regard­ing the safety of bean sprouts.

Like any fresh pro­duce that is con­sumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts carry a risk of food­borne ill­ness. Unlike other fresh pro­duce, seeds and beans need warm and humid con­di­tions to sprout and grow. These con­di­tions are also ideal for the growth of bac­te­ria, includ­ing Sal­mo­nella, Lis­te­ria, and E. coli.

Since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported out­breaks of food­borne ill­ness asso­ci­ated with dif­fer­ent types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. Most of these out­breaks were caused by Sal­mo­nella and E. coli.

In out­breaks asso­ci­ated with sprouts, the seed is typ­i­cally the source of the bac­te­ria. There are a num­ber of approved tech­niques to kill harm­ful bac­te­ria that may be present on seeds and even tests for seeds dur­ing sprout­ing. But, no treat­ment is guar­an­teed to elim­i­nate all harm­ful bac­te­ria.

The FDA and other Fed­eral and state agen­cies con­tinue to work with indus­try on detect­ing and reduc­ing con­t­a­m­i­na­tion and keep­ing con­t­a­m­i­nated sprouts out of the mar­ket­place.

Sourc­ing from rep­utable sprout grow­ers like Salad Cosmo (Dixon, CA) is imper­a­tive for pro­duce dis­trib­u­tors. Their entire busi­ness is pred­i­cated on food safety and strin­gent oper­a­tional pro­to­cols. Their sprouts are tested through­out the entire grow­ing process from start to fin­ish to reduce risk.

Healthy indi­vid­u­als, with­out weak­ened immune sys­tems, can enjoy sprouts either raw or cooked. When in doubt, cook sprouts thor­oughly or take a pass. Always refrig­er­ate fresh sprouts.

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