I remember eating alfalfa sprouts as a kid on sandwiches and in salads. My mom was always big on health foods and introduced me to a lot of foods that are not common to the everyday diet. Later on, I stumbled upon Ezekiel 4:9 Bread at the grocery store. It is made with sprouted grains according to a recipe given by the Lord to the prophet Ezekiel. It turns out, that a combination of the sprouted grains in this particular Bible verse results in a high quality, complete protein. I ate this bread for a while (while I could still afford it) and I really did feel like I was eating something good and highly nutritious. More recently, within the past year or so, I have been researching sprouting as a way to ensure food production during tough times. In fact, while watching an episode of Jericho on Netflix, a family of survivors helped sustain themselves by eating sprouts.
As great as sprouting may be for those who want the health benefits of eating raw grains, it came to my attention that there are possible dangers involved in growing and eating raw sprouts. After a conversation I had with a coworker several years back, it made me think twice about eating raw sprouts. He said that the number one cause of food-borne illness is sprouts. They have been the cause of some of the worst food poisoning outbreaks, resulting in serious illness, kidney failure and even death.
That really surprised me. When I think of food-borne illnesses, I usually think of meat and fish. Usually the cause of illnesses associated with meat and fish is that blood or juice from the meat can cross contaminate other foods through unwashed countertops or not thoroughly cooking meats. But what about sprouts? Bacteria can be present in the seeds themselves prior to sprouting, making their way through cracks in the seeds’ shell. Since sprouts are eaten raw, bacteria can have a field day. And it only takes one contaminated seeds to contaminate an entire batch of sprouts. What’s more is that the same conditions that are necessary for the growth of your sprouts are the same for the growth of harmful bacteria.
So are you safer growing your own sprouts? Since the bacteria are present in the seeds even before sprouting, that would be a no. What if the seeds are acquired from an organic farm? Past outbreaks have been traced to seeds that have come from organic farms. So again, no. What about washing the seeds thoroughly before sprouting? Since the bacteria may be on the inside of the seed, those bacteria will not be removed by washing the seeds.
If that is the case, what can be done to ensure food safety when eating sprouts? The answer: cooking them thoroughly. Bean sprouts are often used in asian-style stir fry recipes, and they taste great. But what about those who want to eat raw sprouts for the health benefits? Eat on, but realize that there is a risk in eating raw sprouts. I recommend that small children, the elderly and those with weak immune systems stay clear of raw sprouts at all costs.
I personally am looking forward to beginning my experiment in growing sprouts at home. But I will not be eating them raw. I will be looking for recipes online, and try to get different ideas for cooking them. Yes, I am aware that people eat raw sprouts all the time with no ill effects. Heck, I have even eaten them myself several times. It is just my personal opinion that the possible dangers of eating raw sprouts outweigh the nutritional benefits.