The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made the move to update its health advisory on the risks associated with eating all raw sprouts because of a recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with alfalfa sprouts.
This advisory is also being updated to specifically include raw and lightly cooked mung bean sprouts. Since 1999 when the FDA originally issued its health advisory on sprouts, there have been several reported foodborne illness outbreaks in the US associated with sprouts. The FDA recommended that persons in high risk categories (children, the elderly, and the immuno-compromised) should not eat raw or lightly cooked sprouts.
The FDA reports that outbreaks of foodborne illness from all implicated raw sprouts have involved the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella or E. coli O157:H7 and have affected persons of all ages and both genders. As such, it suggests that people who wish to reduce their risk of foodborne illness should not eat raw sprouts.
The FDA stressed that for people in high risk categories, an E. coli O157:H7 infection could lead to serious complications, including haemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure or death. Salmonella infection in these high risk groups could also cause serious illness.
According to the statement this week some segments of the US sprout industry have made significant strides to enhance the safety of their products by following recommendations in the 1999 Sprouts Guidance. However, stresses the FDA, adherence to these guidelines has not been universal, and outbreaks have continued to occur in association with raw and lightly cooked sprouts.
Further information can be obtained from the FDA.