- Food and diet
- Eating a balanced diet
- 8 tips for healthy eating
- The Eatwell Guide
- Food labels
- Food labelling terms
- Reference intakes on food labels
- Starchy foods and carbohydrates
- Dairy and alternatives
- Meat in your diet
- Fish and shellfish
- The healthy way to eat eggs
- Beans and pulses
- Water, drinks and your health
- Eating processed foods
- Why 5 A Day?
- What counts?
- 5 A Day portion sizes
- 5 A Day tips
- 5 A Day FAQs
- Fat: the facts
- Salt: the facts
- Sugar: the facts
- Top sources of added sugar
- What does 100 calories look like?
- Red meat and the risk of bowel cancer
- What is a Mediterranean diet?
- 20 tips to eat well for less
- How to prepare and cook food safely
- How to store food and leftovers
- 10 ways to prevent food poisoning
- Why you should never wash raw chicken
- Cooking turkey
- How to wash fruit and vegetables
- The truth about sweeteners
- Sprouted seeds safety advice
- The vegetarian diet
- The vegan diet
- Vegetarian and vegan mums-to-be
- Vegetarian and vegan diets Q&A
- Recipes and tips
- Healthy breakfasts
- Surprising 100-calorie snacks
- 8 healthy eating tips
- How to eat more fibre
- Healthy food swaps
- Healthy breakfast cereals
- How to eat less saturated fat
- Tips for a lower salt diet
- How to cut down on sugar
- Healthier takeaways
- Food and drinks for sport
- Healthy eating for teens
- Digestive health
Sprouted seeds safety advice
There have been a number of reported outbreaks of foodborne illness around the world associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts.
Most of these outbreaks were caused by salmonella and harmful strains of E. coli.
In the UK, there have been a number of cases of salmonella poisoning from eating raw bean sprouts.
What are sprouts?
When seeds start to grow they produce sprouts. These are collected before the leaves develop and the final product is eaten whole, including the seed. There are many types of sprouts, examples include:
- bean sprouts (mung bean)
What bacteria can be found on sprouts?
Salmonella and escherichia coli (E. coli) are the bacteria that most often cause food poisoning from sprouts. Other bacteria, such as Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes have also occasionally been known to cause illness associated with sprouts.
Do sprouts carry a risk of illness?
Like any fresh produce that is consumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts can carry a risk of foodborne illness if they are contaminated. Unlike other fresh produce, the warm, moist conditions required to grow sprouts are ideal for the rapid growth of bacteria, including salmonella, listeria, and E. coli.
What is the current advice on eating sprouts?
The Food Standards Agency says you can eat sprouts raw if they are labelled "ready to eat". All other sprouts should be cooked thoroughly until steaming hot throughout. In addition, you should follow the manufacturers' storage instructions.
If these are not available, keep them refrigerated at 5C or below and consume within 2 days.
You should not eat sprouts that are past their use by date and should avoid using sprouts that have turned brown or changed colour.
Does washing sprouts make them safe to eat raw?
No, washing alone will not completely remove any bacteria. Sprouts should be thoroughly cooked unless they are labelled ready to eat. Ready-to-eat sprouts can be eaten raw, as producers will have taken steps during production to control harmful bacteria.
What is the advice for vulnerable groups?
There are certain groups of people that are not only at increased risk of contracting foodborne illness, but are also more likely to develop health complications as a result. These could include elderly people, the very young, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system due to underlying health issues.
People in vulnerable groups are therefore advised to cook all sprouts thoroughly until they are steaming hot throughout before eating them.
What does cooking thoroughly mean?
Cooking sprouts thoroughly means heating them until they are steaming hot throughout.
Can I sprout my own seeds at home?
Yes, but you need to use seeds suitable for home sprouting, which are subject to strict controls. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Equipment used for sprouting seeds should be cleaned thoroughly using hot soapy water before and after use. Always wash your hands before and after handling seeds intended for sprouting, as well as when preparing food generally.
Read more about safe food preparation.