Raw Sprouts-A silent killer

Bean sprout is definitely one of the most favourite vegetable of many people especially woman because of their robust nutritional properties. I still remember my mom tried to feed me with sprout every week with the hope that I would grow up with beautiful skin (!?). Their belief is somehow true. Scientists proved that sprouts contain a large amount of Vitamin C.

The vitamin is a well-known antioxidant which protects our body from free radicals; and more importantly it is involved in formation of collagen. To put this way, sprouts are helpful to maintain your smooth and youthful skin. Last but not least, sprouts are cheap.

Cheap cosmetic for forever-young skin!

Ready to add sprouts to your salad for dinner tonight?

Wait a second…

Sprouts have been identified as a vehicle of food-borne infections which may kill you easily.

People usually worry about raw beef or fish but do not hesitate to eat raw sprouts. They are not aware that raw sprouts pose high risk of food poisoning or can even cause death.

Sprouts are considered as fresh, natural and safe foods; however, they are not as innocent as they look. There have been more than 55 sprout-related incidents leading to approximately 800 cases of severe neurological disorders, killing at least 50 people in Europe and affecting 15,233 people worldwide since 1988. More recently in 2011, four sprout-related outbreaks happened in Germany resulting in more than 50 deaths and 50 deaths and 4000 illnesses. The list of food poisoning caused by raw sprouts is longer and longer every year.

Why are my sprouts contaminated?

Contamination can occur before sprouting. Un-sprouted seeds may carry pathogenic bacteria such as E.coli resulting in contaminated sprouts. Once the seeds are contaminated, there is no “undo”. In addition, the sprouts can be contaminated during growth because of high temperature and moisture required for sprouting are optimal for bacteria. As a result, raw sprouts may carry a high load of pathogens, such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella spp. According to recent studies, a high number of bacteria-positive sprout samples were reported, indicating the high risk of food borne diseases. Therefore, people put their lives at risk by treating these raw sprouts as ready-to-eat foods.

Be aware of raw sprouts: They are not innocent as they look!

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/00/Sprout_Warning.jpg

However, it is totally possible to protect yourself and your family from the threat.

How to protect yourself from contaminated sprouts?

  • Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems are more likely to be susceptible to food poisoning. Hence, if you belong to any of these groups, raw sprouts are definitely not for you.
  • Bear in mind that sprouts need to be washed properly with clean water to reduce the risk.
  • Only buy sprouts that are from reliable sources and that have been approved by food safety agents or organizations.
  • Like other foods, sprouts also have an expiry date. Obviously, do not consume expired sprouts!
  • Keep sprouts in the fridge to prevent bacteria from multiplying.


Remember: If you still want to have sprouts everyday for the sake of beautiful skin, cook your sprouts properly.


  1. Erdozain, M.S., Allen, K.J., Morley, K.A. and Powell, D.A. (2012). Failures in Sprouts-Related Risk Communication. Food control, Doi: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.08.022.
  2. U.S Food and Drug Administration. (1999). Microbiological Safety Evaluations and Recommendations on Sprouted Seed. Available at : http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/productspecificinformation/fruitsvegetablesjuices/ucm078789.htm#prevent
  3. Website: How can you be sure that sprouts are safe to eat?. Available at: http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=113
  4. Shan Yu Neo, Pei Yan Lim, Li Kai Phua, Gek Hoon Khoo, Su-Jung Kim, Seung-Cheol Lee, Hyun-Gyun Yuk. 2013. Efficacy of chlorine and peroxyacetic acid on reduction of natural microflora, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocyotgenes and Salmonella spp. on mung bean sprouts. Food microbiology. Volume 36, Issue 2. Pages 475–480.
  5. http://www.smh.com.au/world/bean-sprouts-the-source-of-deadly-e-coli-outbreak-20110606-1fnva.html

10 Responses to “Raw Sprouts-A silent killer”

  1. Vivian Loh says:


    Thank goodness I’m never a fan of vegetables (raw or cooked), I’ll just stick to my pink meat – oh wait, they may have Clostridium. Okay I guess I’ll survive on Chocolate 😛

  2. Wendy Nguyen says:

    I learnt from food safety class too. Before that i never thought that sprouts can carry deadly bacteria

  3. whlau says:

    I learnt it from my food science topic. It is just so scary!!!!!

  4. Wendy Nguyen says:

    We are meat-lovers

  5. setiawan says:

    Very informative post, thank god I’m not a big fan of raw vegetables. To be honest I’m not a big fan of vegetables at all :p

  6. Wendy Nguyen says:

    hmmmm. I write another post about bean shoot then. 😛 .

  7. Isabel Menssink says:

    I wouldn’t count bean sprouts as a favourite vegetable! I’ve never eaten them. The only times I have even had the opportunity to eat them have been when I was a kid and we used to grow them on wet cotton wool (fun little experiments), and sometimes at primary school events. I always refused, i mean they look like worms! Of course I may be a minority who haven’t tried them, I didn’t know they were popular at all! Now i’m pretty glad i’ve never had to eat them (thanks mum!). Please tell me bean shoots aren’t harbouring e.Coli!?

  8. canewton says:

    Wow, that’s concerning. I remember my mum used to feed me sprouts all the time when I was little. I wonder if there’s any way to develop a strain of sprouts that has a resistance to Salmonella, E. coli, etc.
    Very revealing information, thanks for the post!

  9. Serene says:

    Oh my god!!! I just had salad with bean sprout a couple of weeks ago and i fall sick after eating them. These cunning little bean sprouts!!! Anyways, thanks for sharing such an informative post! 🙂

  10. Lucy says:

    The not so innocent sprout! Thanks for the really interesting post, I’m going to be much more careful with them from now on (as I love them too).