Don’t Eat Raw Alfalfa Sprouts

Don’t Eat Raw Alfalfa Sprouts
4.1 (82%) 20 votes

Fecal bacteria may contaminate alfalfa seed sprouts and present a food safety risk.


What about the quintessential health food—alfalfa sprouts? According to the American Dietetic Association, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control, no sprouts. There have been a number of serious outbreaks of food poisoning tied to sprouts. Take salmonella, for example. Last year, linked to sprouts, there were not one, not two, but about 100 cases of salmonella food poisoning, which is a gift that can keep on giving. You get salmonella once, and you may suffer from chronic arthritis for the rest of your life. So the CDC has decreed, no sprouts.

We should put this in context, though. Last year, sprout consumption led to 100 cases of salmonella poisoning. Compare that to eggs though, which caused 118,000 cases of salmonella poisoning last year. Do we hear the CDC saying don’t eat eggs? No, but they do say not to eat raw or runny eggs. Even sunny side up or scrambled does not eliminate the salmonella threat. Eggs have to be cooked hard to kill off the bacteria. Similarly, if we boiled our sprouts, they would be safe too—but I don’t know how appetizing that would be.

Disturbing data keeps coming in. How much of the potentially deadly Jack in the Box E. coli 0157 is found in retail beef, sprouts, and mushrooms? Well, none were found in any mushrooms, but one out of every 91 burgers is contaminated, and one out of just 67 alfalfa sprout containers. So, no burgers, no alfalfa sprouts—even homegrown. The bacteria can get into the nooks and crannies of the alfalfa seed itself that you may buy at the store.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

What about the quintessential health food—alfalfa sprouts? According to the American Dietetic Association, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control, no sprouts. There have been a number of serious outbreaks of food poisoning tied to sprouts. Take salmonella, for example. Last year, linked to sprouts, there were not one, not two, but about 100 cases of salmonella food poisoning, which is a gift that can keep on giving. You get salmonella once, and you may suffer from chronic arthritis for the rest of your life. So the CDC has decreed, no sprouts.

We should put this in context, though. Last year, sprout consumption led to 100 cases of salmonella poisoning. Compare that to eggs though, which caused 118,000 cases of salmonella poisoning last year. Do we hear the CDC saying don’t eat eggs? No, but they do say not to eat raw or runny eggs. Even sunny side up or scrambled does not eliminate the salmonella threat. Eggs have to be cooked hard to kill off the bacteria. Similarly, if we boiled our sprouts, they would be safe too—but I don’t know how appetizing that would be.

Disturbing data keeps coming in. How much of the potentially deadly Jack in the Box E. coli 0157 is found in retail beef, sprouts, and mushrooms? Well, none were found in any mushrooms, but one out of every 91 burgers is contaminated, and one out of just 67 alfalfa sprout containers. So, no burgers, no alfalfa sprouts—even homegrown. The bacteria can get into the nooks and crannies of the alfalfa seed itself that you may buy at the store.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

More videos on salmonella food poisoning:

And check out my other videos on sprouts

For more context, see my associated blog posts: Breast Cancer Stem Cells vs. Broccoli and  Are Microgreens Healthier?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

60 responses to “Don’t Eat Raw Alfalfa Sprouts

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  1. There was just tiny mention of at home sprouts containing this bacteria in the “nooks and crannies of the seed” itself.
    Would this apply to organically grown seeds? I’ve always sprouted seeds at home, without problems, always organic. If I soak seeds with vinegar added to soaking water, would that not kill the bacteria?

    1. Even soaking seeds in a bleach solution may not guarantee safety. I would encourage you to move to a “nookless” seed like broccoli.

      1. For god sake! Fecal matter, any micro alien matter might be on any food source from anywhere at any time…I had better just stop eating.Seriously, what sort of psychosis are you trying to engender here?Alfalfa sprouts are a healthy food source. Are you suggesting we stop drinking water because the water,the tap, the glass and even the air might contain or be infected with pathogens that will make us ill or even kill us.Do you apply your concerns to mainstream products like bread, sugar products and Beef?

        1. I couldn’t agree more. Aflalfa sprouts are considered by many to be one of the most healthy vegetables you can consume. One of the guest benefits is how wonderfully they lower cholesterol. The government and the corrupt doctors would love to see this vegetable erased from existence.

          1. You might be interested in my comment at the bottom. I just came across the info and thought it was important enough to feel compelled to share here.

        2. Damian, he’s going by what the reports are saying, they’ve basically red-flagged sprouts back in the day, but it doesn’t seem justified for the reasons you’re saying and those that are addressed in an article I pasted part of and linked in my recent comment at the bottom.

      2. OK that was the question i was about to ask. So broccoli sprouts are safe to eat raw? I was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago and am doing everything I can to stay healthy ;)

    2. I would think you would kill the seed if you soaked it in the high acid vinegar, don’t know, just thinking, it killed my live sprouts when I accidentally put half a cup of vinegar in the auto spouter’s water instead of half a cup of Hydrogen Peroxide…

  2. i sproute alfalfa seeds at home too, is there any trick to be safe? or may be same contamination from time to time is good to our organism to be aware?

    Thank you

  3. I always grow my own alfalfa sprouts

    I soak them for approx 10 minutes in clean water, then
    rinse, add more fresh water and a 1/2 capful of H202 (food grade hydrogen peroxide)
    Let soak ovenight
    Rinse several times a day until ready

  4. SHAME ON YOU for Lying to people!!  Thousands of us who have “done our homework” have discovered that the Reason for Existence of federal agencies like FDA and CDC, is to slant the truth to support commercial producers of often toxic, always less than nutritious things that wise people do not even call food. They are there to prop up the business of food processing, regardless of how it harms people – for Money! Furthermore, the administrations of these federal agencies have been caught repeatedly violating the strong negative recommendations of THEIR OWN FOOD CHEMISTS !!!  …saying that neurotoxins like Neotame, Aspartame, and Sucralose are Good for health, when they KNOW Positively that they’re serously harmful. Repent of your part in the Lies that Harm people !!  Do you really believe that you will ultimately “get away with” this evil?  Tell the Truth!

    1.  Although I share your concerns about the ties of federal agencies such as the CDC, FDA and USDA with corporations I’m not sure what “lies” you think are spreading. Dr. Greger cites well done scientific studies. The video on Aspartame shows that it is harmful see…®-bad-for-you/ and the one that covers a range of artificial sweeteners Sucralose see… along with the recent video on Stevia see… I guess I disagree with your interpretation of the videos which I take to show clearly that consumers should avoid all artificial sweeteners and if they use sweeteners they should probably go with either  date sugar or molasses see… The avoidance of sweeteners also relates to the amount of fructose. We use glucose in all our cells but fructose is metabolized by the liver into products that are not healthy. It gets complex and the science keeps changing so you need to keep tuned in as you never know when recommendations will change and we will develop a better understanding of the complexities of human nutrition. 

  5. Does this cover all sprouts or just alfalfa? I’m hoping some are safe. Thank you for all your work, it’s hands down the best website I’ve ever been lucky enough to come across.

  6. I plant alfalfa sprouts at home, and i have one question, what about sprouting alfalfa with red raddish? Red raddish sprouts are considered as antibacterial and inhibits growth of mold.

  7. I just want to say thanks for all the GREAT INFORMATION you share on your site! I’m a research psychologist (I research nutrition and health behavior) and I appreciate your research/evidence based approach to nutrition. I just read a comment by someone who sounded completely ignorant. Please know that there are many of us out there who are thankful for what you do. Best nutrition site I’ve ever found, by far. Kudos on a job well done. Keep it up!

    1. You are so sweet! Thank you so much for your kind words. So glad I can help. The nutritional science is just the first half though–we need social psychologists to help develop strategies to convince people to actually adopt healthier habits!

  8. dr. gregor, i love your videos, but i have to SERIOUSLY question this one. do you make your own sprouts? if so, where does the fecal matter come from? i don’t add fecal matter to my alfalfa sprouts. do you? and if so, why do you? please know that i am laughing as i write this. alfalfa sprouts grown in a jar with a mesh lid are exposed only to water – unless you add your own fecal matter to the water. ??? i question this… now i am wondering if i need to question more of your data in other videos. ???

    1. According to what I’ve been reading, which I’ve posted and can be found at the bottom of the comments, it’s due to animal agriculture – animals being kept in torturous and filthy conditions. GMO or conventionally grown produce is often right next to these practices and they use manure with these pathogens on their crops. Organic crops can use manure but it has to be composted first which kills dangerous pathogens. This is all according to what I read which again, is posted below.

  9. Doc: Your intent to inform and teach, specially the way you convey information is remarkable. Love the power points and your evidence based studies. The calm voice is inspiring.
    I understand sprouts bought in a store or mass produced has the same shortcomings of the dairy, meat and even vegetable industries. Spinach, Bird flu, Mad Cow disease are all expression of a non sustainable system which is used and abused with hormones, steroids and herbicides, respectively.

    Alfalfa sprouts happens to be one of the most alkalizing micro greens available. It supports renal elimination and metabolic waste neutralization among the dozens of enzymes, natural growth hormones and minerals it contains. In fact, any sprout will have this characteristic since the young shoot is quickly growing. We cannot question nature… only question how man interferes with nature. If correctly sprouted, it is a superfood.

    I believe in a more sustainable, nutritious and whole food based diet, as I am sure you do!

    The CDC and FDA are agencies which protect the public to a certain extent, but really, what do they know of superior nutrition.

    Your video is wonderful and I would like the message to retain its purity. People want information to improve their health, lets give it to them.

    1. I just ate a spinach salad with raw alfalfa sprouts, straight from my local grocery. I was looking for different recipes to use the sprouts so my purchase doesn’t go bad. I find this conversation interesting; fertilizer (or as Yal put it, fecal matter) has gotten way out of hand. Society & the nervousness of eating or even going outside is ridiculous! I grew up sharing carrots with many different heads of horses & never once did I get sick. I watch the world around us change, not for the better, as people spray pesticides, fertilizers (man-made), nutralizers (also man-made ), onto their lawns killing & contaminating the water supply we so desperately need to survive yet, scream organic none chemically grown food! Is it ironic or am I, along with many other farmer’s & naturalist, think this world has gone stupid? I ate my sprouts no problem…..have for a few days without any problems. Maybe my immune system is stronger then most because I played in dirt, ate with my show horses & probably ingested more dirt then one should, who knows. My whole point to all this though, if you’re gonna preach about being & eating healthy; look at your yard cause I guarantee you flip when you see a weed & grab your chemical bottle to end it’s life so you can compete with your neighbor on ‘who has the greenest weed free yard!’ I live in a state that has no water left, 250,000 hecta acres of precious sea grass & sea weed are dead from chemical run off! (we also have glowing man-made algea in fresh water rivers & lake’s) Chain reaction…..then the marine life goes, then we go, can’t eat contaminated fish or shell fish; rinsing with water don’t fix that. Take care of your planet, she’ll take care of you & by the way….let the weeds grow.

      1. Very well said. So glad to see the massive issue of at home chemical use on lawns being brought up!! But humans shouldn’t eat fish or shell fish in the first place, just wanted to add that.

  10. I’m sick of these so called doctor’s try to sucker people when you should be helping people but that’s the wait is now, you can keep giving out bogus information for profit.

    1. No profit is had here at, its purely donation run. Furthermore, all the information here is backed with scientific evidence and the evidence is available for viewing in the sources cited section below the video.

  11. “A large outbreak of Salmonella infections in 2010 caused nearly 2000 illnesses. Among the outbreaks attributed to a food vehicle composed of ingredients from only one of 17 defined food commodities, the commodities most often implicated were beef (13%), dairy (12%, nearly all unpasteurized), fish (12%), and poultry (11%).”

    Been eating alfalfa, raw mushrooms and every other edible raw vegetable there is my whole life…. never sick once from that, nor do I know someone getting sick from such either. In contrast, I have gotten sick twice (Burger and Fajita) no sprouts there. There is a risk in every single bite of food we eat unless we eat synthetic “glow in the dark” foods. Placing an article saying DON’T EAT RAW ALFALFA SPROUTS sound very uneducated. Instead, provide solutions from avoiding contamination or dealing with it should be more appropriated coming from a passionate nutrition professional, such as combine the consumption of alfalfa sprouts with properly cleaned cilantro “Chemicals derived from coriander leaves were found to have antibacterial activity against Salmonella choleraesuis, and this activity was found to be caused in part by these chemicals acting as nonionic surfactants”

  12. Thanks for your informative videos. But I don´t understand..where is the salmonella coming from? We know how its get into chicken or hamburger meat. How and at what point is the bacteria getting into the sprouts? As you may recall sprouts were claimed to be responsible for the death of over forty people in Germany a couple of years ago. But it was not caused directly by the grower of the bio sprouts here in Germany but was traced back to the seed?? company in Egypt. So is it the seeds or what? Thanks again!!

  13. I’ve been eating alfalfa sprouts and mushrooms for over 30 years. No case of salmonella poisoning in this body. In this day and age, anything can kill us. People just worry too much. If it wasn’t good for us, God would never have made it for us to eat.

  14. I got sick (bad headache & tummy ache) 2 days in a row at a health retreat after eating beautiful raw vegan salads generously topped with several kinds of sprouts. When I told the doctor there about it, he advised me to skip the alfalfa sprouts. The next day I avoided the alfalfa sprouts but ate everything else, and I was fine the rest of the time. I haven’t touched alfalfa sprouts since. It’s too bad because they are yummy and refreshing, but fortunately there are other types of sprouts that are far less risky to eat.

    1. Hi There! It looks like there is some research on ozone and alfalfa sprouts. This is a newer study (2015). I am not sure how it’s being applied, if at all. Let me know if this helps? Related articles can be found along the right side of the link. Thanks for sharing the USDA study.


    2. It’s really the animal agriculture that is to blame for the outbreak of things like e-coli and salmonella in produce. But you won’t see the USDA tackling the animal agriculture industries!

  15. Unfortunately, there is another good reason to avoid alfalfa sprouts: they contain canavanine, an amino acid antagonist. The concentration of canavanine in alfalfa sprouts is about 15,000 ppm or 1.5% by weight. Canavanine is a potent L-arginine antimetabolite and has been linked to lupus-like symptoms and other auto-immune diseases in humans. Broccoli, radish, etc. are probably a better idea for sprouts.

    1. I posted some of an article and a link below that I believe answers your question. And Dr. Greger only seems to be advising against alfalfa sprouts in this video but I think the report where this originated from in the 90’s said something about radish sprouts and one other sprout (it’s in the article). However I know Dr. Greger advocates broccoli sprouts and lentil and bean sprouts.

  16. Don’t listen to this crap. Buy local and grow at home. If you shop good food and buy at a reputable place you should never worry about sprouts etc. Believing in this kind of message makes you a dumb shit of the highest accord. If you are buying food at Wal-mart then you should be more afraid, but no one educated in sprouts, micro-greens, and super foods will support this kind of scare tactic. BTW, salmonella on eggs only ever can exist on the outside of the shell. A good wash before cracking them open will be very safe. Please wake up on you food choices and know that you can control your nutrition much better than the government or the big agro dickhead companies that are really out to destroy for a buck!

  17. This article is beyond ridiculous. Oh yes.. BEWARE of the eeeevil sprouts!!!!

    “We should put this in context though, last year sprout consumption led to 100 cases of salmonella poisoning. Compare that to eggs though, which caused 118 thousand of salmonella poisoning last year…”

    Oh yes please, thank you. Put it in context.

    Oh I see now, when actually put in the context of REALITY I can see that the context of this article is purely IMAGINARY.


    1. Aaron, this article is only saying don’t eat raw alfalfa sprouts – no other sprouts, just the alfalfa, due to the fecal matter found in the nooks of the seeds that can be contaminated. Instead of alfalfa, many alternatives are suggested.

  18. I haven’t read anything on clover sprouts. I don’t particularly care for broccoli sprouts, but I like clover sprouts almost as much as alfalfa.

    1. Actually clover sprouts were mentioned in the report alongside alfalfa and radish sprouts. I posted the article below, but if you actually read it, it might ease your mind a bit. It sounds as though organic is likely much safer, based on what I read.

  19. Sprouts are known as natures healer to the Native Indians……..wash them like anything I have been eating them for decades and they have helped, (along with cutting down on milk, sugar and white flour) solve my skin conditions and my chronic sinus infections
    FYI (The one case they are talking about…….. the contamination was in the water used – not the sprout)

    1. The most recent PubMed research I found was not too encouraging and it appears there has been no new legislation that has passed making alfalfa sprouts safe, although some manufacturers are doing more to make sprouts safer. Check out this study: Assessing the Public Health Impact and Effectiveness of Interventions To Prevent Salmonella Contamination of Sprouts. If like me, you love those sprouts, and want to eat them, keep up your vigilance and follow these guidelines:

  20. Could be the difference is getting organic or not, which is explained in the article I’ll be sharing below which I’ve just come across… it explains where the pathogens come from and why it may be less likely to occur with organic. And there are other important factors to consider, it seems… These people are in the sprouting business, but they don’t try to hide this fact, however they’re showing the contrast between FDA reports on sprouts vs. eggs and explaining things that these reports fail to disclose or address. I highly suggest reading the copy and pasted piece of their article below and can click the link to read in full. I just came across this and I thought it was a pretty important find. I’m not trolling here, I just remembered this and another video on alfalfa sprouts and I thought this was a very important perspective and very important information to share:

    The FDA has created a panic over the safety of sprouts. Jane Henney, head of the FDA delivered a press release July 9, 1999 naming sprouts as a high risk food and warning that everyone, not just the young, the sick and the elderly, but EVERYONE should stop eating sprouts if they want to avoid illness. If you think this press release hasn’t hurt the sprout industry, here’s what we know: a grower we have talked to in Kentucky has just lost all her restaurant accounts. In Santa Cruz a company which has been sprouting for 20 years has stopped growing alfalfa sprouts altogether because they refuse to use the toxic levels of bleach demanded by the California Department of Health Services. Just this week the Dane County Department of Health in Madison, Wisconsin banned sprouts from salad bars and pre-made deli sandwiches. Sprout growers have lost gross sales of around 30% across the board. Our own sales continue to plummet (down 50% as of June) and if not for our mail order business, we would have laid off most of our loyal staff by now. The FDA has come close to libeling the sprout industry with misleading and downright inaccurate statements. Why Jane Henney of the FDA is so intent on obliterating a tiny industry that produces a wonderfully healthy food and whose contamination percentage is negligible compared to that of the large and powerful food industries is not at all clear to us. All we can come up with is that she does it because she can. Also, we theorize that the sprout “industry” although containing some major players with high profiles is, by and large composed of small family or even single-person operations. We have no strong, unified organization that can exert pressure and influence on us all, the way almost all other food industries have, and we think that the very independence and illusiveness of this industry makes it very hard for government agencies to seek out and control it. Understandably, this could make the FDA nervous and we can, in that sense see why Henney, maybe out of frustration, maybe out of punitive motives, issued her harsh warning. The FDA may be motivated by the desire to seek consolidation within the sprout world, by pushing out small growers like ourselves who can’t financially withstand the assaults. We, The Sproutpeople are the only ones who are apparently taking the time to research, write about, and publish this story in any depth. Make note at this time that we are asking you all to use any connections you or your friends might have to get this letter into the hands of a real investigative reporter so that this scandal can be brought to light. Our own business is tiny even by sprout industry standards. We are a small family business. We have two young children who have grown up in this business. Regardless of the FDA’s motives, we are highly offended, outraged, in fact, that the FDA is issuing press releases that say sprouts are filthy and dangerous, thereby depriving us of our livelihood. The statements of Jane Henney, Commissioner of the FDA belie the facts. In this paper we will set out to discredit the FDA’s claims by exposing how they put our industry in the worst possible light, while, in a press release on egg safety just a week before, they manage to paint that industry, which has terrible salmonella infection rates, in the most glowing terms. It will be blatantly apparent when you compare the articles side by side that the FDA kowtows to those with money . They surely do not expect the public to have done the comparison that we have done.

    We will also lead you through some simple math to demonstrate the actual risk of eating sprouts and compare that to the risk of other foods. Perspective and balance is desperately needed on this issue. Honesty is needed. Sincerity is needed. The sprout industry has had some outbreaks in the past, but they are way down from 1996 and most of those were caused either by infected seed from a seed company or from a few people sprouting in conditions that most of us sprout growers would never have anything to do with and that a simple health inspection could have rectified. The FDA has simply gone ballistic on sprouts. They are on a witch hunt and they won’t be happy until there are no sprout companies left in existence. I know this is hard to believe, but they have just told people to stop eating sprouts! I don’t think they want us around anymore.

    The FDA maintains on their web site a list of recent press releases and we went there to get the actual press release on sprouts written by Henney on July 9, 1999 that was rewritten by Reuter’s News Service and picked up by The New York Times and many others. We also noticed a press release written a week earlier by Henney (July 1, 1999) on egg safety. The facts of the sprout report are so misleading and unfair and the facts of the egg report so obviously pandering to the egg industry that we want to both refute the sprout article and contrast it to the article on egg safety. You won’t believe this:


    “Because of reports of increasing numbers of illnesses associated with consumption of raw sprouts, the Food and Drug Administration is advising all persons to be aware of the risks associated with eating raw sprouts (e.g., alfalfa, clover, radish). Those persons who wish to reduce the risk of Food-borne illnesses from sprouts are advised not to eat raw sprouts.”

    Sproutpeople Respond: Henney lies in her first sentence :”Because of reports of increasing numbers of illness associated with sprouts?” It’s just a lie. Cases are down 60% from the highest outbreak period of 1995-96. Illnesses are not increasing, they are decreasing.
    “Since 1995, raw sprouts have emerged as a recognized source of food borne illness in the United States. These illnesses have involved the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella and E. coli O157. Alfalfa and clover sprouts have been involved most often, but all raw sprouts may pose a risk.”

    Sproutpeople Respond: Not happy citing just alfalfa and clover sprouts, known carriers of Salmonella, Henney must include all sprouts. It’s a meaningless statement that anyone can make: Umbrellas may also pose a risk; alligator shoes may also pose a risk; ANYTHING MAY pose a risk. It’s a dishonest statement to make, but an old rhetorical tactic used when attempting to cast doubt on someone or something.
    “The sprout industry has been working in cooperation with government, academia, and other industry segments to enhance the safety of its product. These efforts have focused primarily on seed treatment strategies, good manufacturing practices, and sanitation. ”

    “’Despite all these efforts to make raw sprouts safer, we continue to receive reports of illnesses associated with raw sprouts. Consumers need to understand that, at this time, the best way to control this risk is not to eat raw sprouts,’ said Jane E. Henney, MD, FDA Commissioner.”

    Sproutpeople Respond: This is the statement that is killing our business. Henney completely hides the fact that safety efforts in the sprout industry so far have dramatically reduced the number of cases of illnesses associated with sprouts. She is saying in effect, that everything has been tried and sprouts are still infected.

    In fact, the FDA has tried very little, and what tests have been tried have been conducted by the sprout and sprouting seed industry itself. The FDA hasn’t really lifted a finger, because that finger would, we believe point toward the contamination of the sprouting seed at or near harvest with pathogen-infected cow manure from sick cows in huge atrocious feed lots (many non-organic seed and cattle operations run side by side). They aren’t about to crack down on agribusiness. It has been argued by some people, ignorant of certified organic farming practices that organic farmers are the contaminators because they spread livestock manure on their fields. Conventional farmers also spread livestock manure on their fields, in some cases along with toxic sludge, but there’s one difference: In organic farming, the manure to be spread has to first be composted, a method that kills any pathogenic bacteria before the manure comes in contact with the field. People who blame organic farmers are just showing their ignorance, not just for organic practices but for conventional farming practices as well,

    “Consumers who have eaten raw sprouts and are experiencing diarrhea or other symptoms of Food-borne infections are advised to consult their health care provider.”

    Sproutpeople Respond: From the infinitesimally small number of actual cases, Henney has extrapolated a huge, emergency situation: “Go to your phone and dial 911 NOW!” Another public relations (and military) tactic to create panic and a climate of fear and urgency where none exists.

    We feel we really must contrast this muckraking piece of garbage with her press release July 1, 1999
    on the contamination by salmonella of eggs. Though we have nothing against the egg industry per se,
    it illustrates to us how a report involving a massive, well funded food lobby can be watered down and
    obfuscated to avoid upsetting the powers that be, in this case the American Egg Institute and it’s
    congressional backers. Please bear with us while we give a little background:

    Eggs have since the 1960’s become increasingly more infected with Salmonella enteritidis due to the abysmal overcrowding of chickens in poultry factories and overdosing with antibiotics which have created resistant strains of bacteria. In 1990 the FDA re-designated the egg as a hazardous food under it’s model food codes. Eggs would have to be refrigerated along all points of shipment and storage. Five years later in 1996 the USDA revealed that the rules had never been enforced because the egg industry felt they were too restrictive. So the USDA, instead of blaming egg contamination on the giant producers, blamed it on the mishandling of eggs by the American public. This is the kind of “cooperation” we’ve seen from just one, giant industry. So when we saw this press release, we almost laughed–the title alone would be a joke if it weren’t so sad:


    Sproutpeople Respond: Another farce–this all happened in 1991–and nothing happened. There’s nothing like packaging old news as new news if your public is unsuspecting. New and improved same old stuff.
    “Continuing their joint efforts to combat Food-borne illness, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Department of Health and Human Service’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced three important new measures to prevent illnesses caused by contaminated eggs. The FDA is proposing to require safe handling statements on labels of shell eggs to warn consumers about the risk of illness caused by Salmonella Enteritis (SE).”

    Sproutpeople Respond: Notice that the FDA is only PROPOSING TO REQUIRE this–if the American Egg Institute says it’s okay.
    “FDA’s proposed handling instructions will contain the following statement on each carton of eggs: “Safe Handling Instructions: Eggs may contain harmful bacteria known to cause serious illness, especially in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems. For your protection: Keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.”

    Sproutpeople Respond: Cook until yolks are firm? Do you think the egg industry is going to allow the FDA to say eggs over easy are infectious?
    “In addition, for the first time, there will be a uniform federal requirement that all eggs and egg products packed for consumers be refrigerated at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Retail establishments governed by the proposed FDA regulation include supermarkets, restaurants, delis, caterers, vending operations, hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. In addition, FSIS is issuing a directive applying the refrigeration requirement to warehouses and other distribution locations …including transport vehicles. FDA-FSIS risk assessment found that refrigeration makes it more difficult for SE bacteria to grow.”

    Sproutpeople Respond: This was a requirement 8 years ago. It was ignored, written out of legislation and de-funded.
    “The Clinton Administration has made ensuring food safety a top priority,” said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. “These additional steps will help educate consumers and reduce Food-borne illness caused by contaminated eggs”

    Sproutpeople Respond: “Educate consumers”? We hate that kind of condescending language. As if to say, once again, the consumer is ignorant and needs education; we’ve been cooking eggs all wrong for centuries and it’s our own fault if we get sick.


    Even the head of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, whose department controls the FDA, feels the need to put in a pitch for eggs:

    “Eggs are a good source of protein and can be a healthy and economical contribution to a

    well-balanced diet,” said HHS Secretary Donna Shalala.

    Sproutpeople Respond: Even the Secretary of Health and Human Services is required to kiss egg butt. She goes on to admonish:
    “However, they need proper handling or they could potentially be the source of Food-borne illness.”

    Sproutpeople Respond: “Could-Potentially-Be”…I s that a double maybe? Could you qualify that statement a little more, Donna? We stupid consumers mishandling eggs aren’t quite clear on this.
    The press release then goes on to note:

    “From 1996 to 1998, there has been a 44 percent decrease in the number of illnesses caused by SE, according to the Food-borne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, known as ‘FoodNet’…”

    “SE outbreaks have been attributed to undercooked eggs or foods containing undercooked eggs served in homes, private gatherings,…”

    Sproutpeople Respond : SE outbreaks are attributed to sick chickens laying sick eggs in filthy, inhumane, overcrowded poultry factories and the FDA isn’t going to do a damn thing about it!
    We apologize for digressing into eggs for such a lengthy period of time, but we wanted to illustrate how divisive and obviously crude the FDA is handling their press releases. We think the one on sprouts should be subtitled, “Jane Henney Penny Says ‘The Sky is Falling’” and the ones on eggs, “Henney Penny Lays a Golden Egg”. We think we have the right to indulge in a bit of name calling while Jane Henney is depriving us of our livelihood. To offer the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Henney and the FDA is aware of the problems inherent in huge poultry operations and would sincerely like to change those practices. But the way they presented their press release on egg safety in contrast to their press release on sprouts mars their credibility as protectors of public health. The CDC estimates that eggs sicken 66,00 and kill 40 people per year. Sprouts don’t do that. Yet where is Jane Henney telling the American public not to eat eggs? She wouldn’t dare!

    The FDA is unable to remedy or even discuss to the public the real causes of so many of our food borne diseases, which result from poor sanitation and poor health of animals due to increasingly unhealthy corporate farming practices. Chickens are raised in huge lots of 25,000 birds, each bird getting 8 square inches of space. Cows are being fed chicken manure and cardboard because it’s cheaper by 5 cents per day per cow than soybeans. Cow carcasses are processed covered in their own manure as are chicken carcasses and nothing is done to stop it. Vegetables can be harvested and processed next to huge manure lots. The USDA, FDA and FSIS know this but they don’t want you to know that they know. In this country “downer” cows (those in the U.S. infected with “mad cow” disease) are fed to other cows even though it is known that feeding meat to herbivores is the problem in the first place. 3 Jane Henney of the FDA can’t do anything to combat the powerful lobbies and public relations companies which protect the interests of agribusiness. But she can bully the poor little sprout “industry” instead and give the public the impression that something is being done about something. She wants labels on eggs, labels she herself knows will never happen, but she can’t touch the way the eggs are actually produced, which infects the embryo of the egg itself! Our point is, please don’t be gullible about these FDA factoid sheets; they are just plain nonsense, as I hope we have illustrated.

    We wanted you to see these two contrasting press releases so you could compare the tone of the one that refers to an industry with no money to a big powerful moneyed group. I know that some reading this will be angered and call us cynical; they just don’t want to believe that our government doesn’t have our best interests at heart. They don’t believe that food industries would knowingly sicken people. But they do. And the pathetic solutions of the FDA and USDA do not attack the well-researched and documented problem of poultry overcrowding as the cause. Instead, they attack they way we cook eggs! I guess we will no longer have the right to eggs over easy, souffles and homemade mayonnaise (yum) and this may sound frivolous on the surface, but it has deeper ramifications–do we have the right to eat the foods that are traditional parts of our diets without getting sick from them? The answer from government and industry seems to be “no”.

    We have the right to eat whole foods that are alive with nutrition–and yes–bacteria for without it we will no longer be healthy and able to fend off disease. Government policy seems to be made by those totally ignorant of bacterial ecology and unaware that we are organisms IN nature not ABOVE nature. They seem to think the only good bacteria is a dead bacteria and would render our food sterile which would leave us as vulnerable as tourists in Mexico without agua purificada (purified water).

  21. I take your point that fecal bacteria is everywhere, but what doesn`t kill us makes us stronger. I don`t see a problem for a healthy organism.

  22. I’ve stumbled upon the following article from 2011:

    Summary: “A new study that uses new technology to assess and compare the safety of radish, broccoli, and alfalfa sprouts concludes that the secret to keeping sprouts free of foodborne pathogens lies in industry’s intense attention to cleanliness of seeds.”

    The following quote seems to contradict the reasoning given by Dr. Greger and the cited study’s finding.
    “Although E. coli could be eliminated on the alfalfa seeds because of their relatively smooth surface, broccoli and radish seeds have rough surfaces. Their texture renders these rougher seeds more susceptible to the attachment of pathogens and makes these microorganisms very difficult to remove, he said.”
    Don’t we really need a comparison of presence of pathogens in different sprouted seeds?
    Does the following study tell us mung bean sprouts are safe or Italy sprouters have a sufficient level of hygienic care?

    In other words: Living in Europe, I don’t really feel confident to advise against Alfalfa sprouts based on the current body of evidence regarding pathogens.
    However, Tevis Morrow seems to have a point with his mention of Canavanine.

  23. Hi, Thanks for this educating website.
    Please could you explain how long and at what temperature to cook the alfalfa sprouts in order to kill any bacteria?

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