CSN Login
Members Online: 5

You are here

Bean sprouts

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

Just wanted to update everyone. I am off antibiotics after a nasty bacterial diarrhea that left me reeling. Unfortunately, the ER never ordered the culture that they said they had done, so I will never know definitively what bacteria was involved in my infection. However, my GP told me that there was an outbreak of salmonella in my community at the time I hit the ER.

Guess what the last thing was that I ate before getting ill? Vietnamese soup with raw bean sprouts (I just love it).

I went to the CDC salmonella website (just out of curiosity) and the first article on salmonella that pops up is one called "Hold the Raw Bean Sprouts, Please". See
Hold the Bean Sprouts, Please

I have a sinking feeling that the bean sprouts were indeed the cause of the infection. The simple solution is to make sure the bean sprouts are boiled in the soup as boiling kills salmonella :-)

Just wanted to share, because, after my reading, raw bean sprouts are no longer an option for me!

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

"Hold the Raw Sprouts, Please

Hello, I am Dr. Raj Mody. I am an internal medicine and pediatric clinician and infectious disease epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). I am glad to have the opportunity to talk with you about sprouts, and the risks they pose to health, as part of the CDC Expert Video Commentary Series on Medscape. So-called sproutbreaks have occurred every year in the United States since at least 1995 and have taught us that sprouts are a risky food to eat. Sprouts were found to be the cause of a devastating outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli infections in Europe this summer. Ultimately, this outbreak caused more than 4000 illnesses, more than 900 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, and 50 deaths.

Why are sprouts a risky food, you might ask? Some people think of them as the ultimate healthy food -- fresh and natural. In fact, raw sprouts can be anything but safe. Lessons from outbreaks have taught us that it is a good idea for people who want to lower their risk for foodborne infection to cook raw sprouts or avoid eating them raw.

Here is what we have learned:

Lesson 1: A sprouted seed is a perfect vehicle for pathogens.

A sprouting seed is as inviting and nourishing as Salmonella or E coli could want, and the warm, moist conditions in which sprouts are produced only make matters worse. A single Salmonella organism on the outside of a seed can easily grow to an infectious dose after it has sprouted. The bacteria in or on growing sprouts cannot be washed off. Because Shiga toxin-producing E coli (STEC) have a low infectious dose, sprouts are a great vehicle. Sprouts have also been the vehicle for Listeria, which causes a very dangerous infection for pregnant women and the elderly.

Lesson 2: Sprouts have caused many outbreaks of illness.

Since sprouts were first recognized as a source of foodborne disease in the mid-1990s, they have become one of the "usual suspects" that foodborne disease epidemiologists look for when investigating an E coli or Salmonella outbreak. Since 1998, more than 30 outbreaks have been reported to the CDC, due to many different kinds of sprouts -- alfalfa, bean, clover, and others. In fact, CDC's foodborne disease surveillance systems have identified 3 sprouts-associated outbreaks since June of 2010 that spread across multiple states.

Lesson 3: It is difficult to grow "safe" sprouts.

Once the potential dangers of sprouts became known, the US Food and Drug Administration developed guidance to help sprout growers reduce the risk for pathogen contamination in sprouts they produce and sell. Many sprouts growers have implemented practices to decontaminate seeds before sprouting, but no available method has proved completely effective. People who eat raw sprouts ought to know that they are taking a risk, including people who grow their own sprouts, because the contamination typically starts with the seed.

Lesson 4: Sprouts can make even young and healthy people ill.

This is one of the biggest lessons learned from the outbreak in Europe in 2011 and from our experience with outbreaks in this country. Sproutbreaks in the United States predominantly affect healthy persons aged 20-49 years. A typical victim may be an especially health conscious person in the prime of life. Nevertheless, illnesses from sprouts can be particularly severe in vulnerable populations, such as young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with compromised immunity.

Lesson 5: It can be hard for those who become ill to remember having eaten sprouts.

We have found in our investigation of outbreaks that were ultimately linked to sprouts that people often do not remember having eaten them, because they are often just a garnish or just one of many ingredients in a food dish. It is not necessary to eat large quantities of sprouts to make a person sick. An ill person's inability to accurately recall what they ate sometimes makes it difficult to pinpoint an outbreak of sprouts.

So what can you do?
•Clinicians are a trusted source of information. You can relay the message about the dangers of consuming raw or uncooked sprouts, especially to people in the most vulnerable populations -- young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with compromised immunity. CDC recommends that people in these groups not eat sprouts;
•If you diagnose a Salmonella, STEC, or Listeria infection, you should report it to your local health department; and
•If you have a patient with Salmonella or E coli diarrhea or Listeria meningitis, take a food history -- consuming even small amounts of raw or uncooked sprouts could be the source of illness."


missrenee's picture
Posts: 2137
Joined: Apr 2010

I had read something like this several years ago--even before bc, and have avoided these ever since. Alot of health-food type stores and cafes routinely put these on sandwiches--so you really have to be careful.

So sorry you had to deal with that very unpleasant infection, but glad to hear you're doing better now.

Take good care.

Hugs, Renee

Posts: 245
Joined: May 2012

Thank you for the article. I will avoid sprouts now. It is so hard to know what is safe these days. Even our dogs are on home made food because of the deaths related to China food. I still buy a high quality kibble, but there are risks there. And every time I eat spinach, which I love, I worry about that last recall and all of those deaths.


VickiSam's picture
Posts: 9085
Joined: Aug 2009

Thank you CC for this food information, article and research. So valuable, and

Who would of thought? right?

Vicki Sam

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

Vicki Sam, this is a tough one for me because I love bean sprouts! But facts are facts and, within an hour of eating them, I was deathly ill. I am now finally eating solids; I am starving!

But I sure don't want any of you to be as dumb as me. Louisiana folks tend to eat anything (crawfish, oysters, sprouts, etc.) Lol, I guess I will have to use a little common sense in the future.

ksf56's picture
Posts: 203
Joined: Apr 2012

Food poisoning stinks even when you're well but under these circumstances is unbelieveable. Bean sprouts have been a danger for years and tho I really like them (Jimmy John's tuna fish sandwich - yum) it's not worth what it does to you. Jimmy John's was particularly singled out last year. Unfortunately, I experienced a nasty round during my AC treatments - no more taco salads for me. I was in the ER with dehydration etc. so I know the misery.

I feel for you. Please take good care and like you've heard many times - drink, drink drink!


grams2jc's picture
Posts: 756
Joined: May 2011

I do know my favorite Jimmy John's sandwich no longer includes sprouts, they really liked to pile them on before the last sprout/salmonella problem they had. Must say I don't miss them.

Thanks for the info Eileen,


Posts: 2515
Joined: May 2009

I knew there was a reason I've never eaten bean sprouts...now I know I!ll never eat them!

Glad your feeling better....
Hugs, Nancy

Helen321's picture
Posts: 1346
Joined: May 2012

You just can't win. I'm a rectal cancer patient visiting breast with a question and this topic caught my attention. I just recently started eating brocolli sprouts daily. It's touted by John Hopkins University as a big cancer fighter and it's getting resounding support on all these cancer websites. Now what? I wonder if the brocolli sprouts hold their value if you cook them. Going to have to do a lot more research. Thanks for the info. It's so hard to figure out what to do now. I just got diagnosed in February so I'm new to this sort of eating.

Subscribe to Comments for "Bean sprouts"