|Why Alfalfa Sprouts Are Still Safe And Healthy
By Steve Meyerowitz, author of Sprouts
the Miracle Food
In it's January 1999
issue, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) describes two incidences of
Salmonella contamination from alfalfa sprouts that took place in 1995. A few comments
These were the
first such incidents in the (then) 35 year history of the sprout industry. There were no
were traced to a single source of contaminated seed imported from the Netherlands.
All alfalfa seeds
since 1995 have been subject to strict scrutiny and purification. The sprout industry
today is in full compliance with the CDC and USDA.
contamination makes sensational news for the following reasons.
a) Prior to 1995,
the tiny sprout industry was virtually unknown to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and
the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). It attracted great attention because it was new
b) The USDA and
CDC took a greater interest in sprouts, because the growing conditions for seeds are also
favorable growing conditions for bacteria and because as a raw food, sprouts do not
benefit from sterilization by cooking.
c) Sprouts are
famous as legendary health foods. The incidence of salmonella is especially newsworthy
because of the irony of a health food causing ill health.
industries, such as meat, poultry, and tobacco, the tiny $250 million dollar sprout
industry has no public relations firm or Washington lobbyists to defend itself. Thus, the
public only knows a small part of the story.
The risk factor
for contracting salmonella from eating sprouts is far less than that of other common
According to the
U.S.D.A., each year, salmonella contamination from foods such as poultry, meat, eggs and
fresh produce sickens 4 million people annually in the U.S. The two 1995 sprout incidents
reached an estimated 20,000.
According to the
FDA, 93% of all bacterial illnesses from human and animal pathogens come from meat,
poultry and dairy. In 1995, the CDC documented 15 fatalities caused by reactions to foods
such as peanuts, milk, eggs and shellfish. Every year, there are an estimated 9,000 deaths
and 81 million illnesses due to unsafe foods. (Wall Street Journal 8/21/98)
In 1997, Cox
Newspapers analyzed a USDA computerized database of meat and poultry inspection records
for 1996 and found 138,593 instances in which inspectors said food being prepared in
packing plants was "certain" to sicken consumers. The database was obtained
under the Freedom of Information Act.
Our food supply is
not the only source of bacterial infection. Each year, about 2 million people acquire
infections while under care in U.S. hospitals and nearly 90,000 die of them, according
William Jarvis of the CDC. (Based on a 1998 survey of 265 U.S. hospitals).
Sprouts are a
nutritionally concentrated, pesticide-free, locally grown, fresh produce available year
round. It is easily available to populations where fresh foods distribution is too
expensive or impractical.
sprouts is statistically safer and healthier than eating meat, dairy or poultry. The U.S.
food and water supply will never be free of harmful bacteria. Nevertheless, most Americans
have confidence that their food is safe. Sprout growers are working closely with the CDC
and USDA to produce safe, healthy, and delicious sprouts.
Sproutman Publications. PO Box 1100. Great Barrington, MA
01230. 413-528-5200x4. Fax 413-528-5201.
Sproutman@Sproutman.com Or go to Sproutman.com