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Bean Sprouts - Sprouted Beans and Seeds

What are sprouted beans/seeds?
How can these sprouts cause food poisoning?
What should I look for when buying sprouts?
How should I store sprouts at home?
What is the safest way to prepare sprouts?
Is it safe to eat raw sprouts?  

What are sprouted beans/seeds? 
Sprouted beans or seeds, sometimes also referred to as ‘bean sprouts’, ‘seed sprouts’ or just ‘sprouts’, are the germinating forms of beans or seeds. They are usually grown in a warm, moist environment, to allow the bean or seed to sprout. It is the germinating shoot or sprout that is eaten.

Types of sprouts commonly eaten include (this is not an exhaustive list):

Chinese cabbage
Garlic chive
Mung beans
Onion seed
Green Peas
Red cabbage
Rocket (Rucola)
Soya beans
Sunflower seeds
Wheatgrass kernels

How can these sprouts cause food poisoning? 
The environment in which the sprouts are grown, warm and moist conditions, is also the perfect environment for the growth of bacteria. If the beans or seeds are contaminated with harmful bacteria, the growing conditions can allow the bacteria to multiply to levels where they can cause illness when the sprouts are eaten raw. Sprouts can also be contaminated via contaminated irrigation water or via contaminated compost if they are not grown hydroponically. Cooking will destroy any bacteria present.

What should I look for when buying sprouts? 
When buying sprouts you should ensure that they have been stored at refrigerated temperatures. Choose crisp-looking sprouts and avoid any that look wilted or smell musty. Keep the sprouts separate from any raw meats or seafood to prevent any harmful bacteria from the meat or seafood from transferring onto the sprouts.

How should I store sprouts at home? 
Place the sprouts in the fridge as soon as you get home and use them before the best-before date. Use within two days of purchase if they are not pre-packaged. Throw away any sprouts that are past their best-before date or that have lost their crispness, look wilted or smell musty.

What is the safest way to prepare sprouts? 
Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before and after handling food including sprouted seeds. Rinse the sprouts thoroughly under cool, running drinking water to clean them. Thoroughly wash chopping boards, utensils and other surfaces after preparation. Make sure that foods that are not ready to eat, like raw meat, do not come into contact with the sprouts either directly or indirectly via dirty hands, dirty surfaces or dirty preparation equipment.

Is it safe to eat raw sprouts? 
Vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, very young, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women, should avoid eating raw sprouts. Labelling information on the sprouts should provide information on whether the sprouts are suitable for eating raw or must be cooked. If in doubt, cook sprouts prior to eating.



Last reviewed: 23/5/2013

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