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Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2014 Aug;11(8):635-44. doi: 10.1089/fpd.2013.1705.

Outbreaks caused by sprouts, United States, 1998-2010: lessons learned and solutions needed.

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1 Medical Education, Portland Providence Medical Center , Portland, Oregon.


After a series of outbreaks associated with sprouts in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published guidelines in 1999 for sprouts producers to reduce the risk of contamination. The recommendations included treating seeds with an antimicrobial agent such as calcium hypochlorite solution and testing spent irrigation water for pathogens. From 1998 through 2010, 33 outbreaks from seed and bean sprouts were documented in the United States, affecting 1330 reported persons. Twenty-eight outbreaks were caused by Salmonella, four by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, and one by Listeria. In 15 of the 18 outbreaks with information available, growers had not followed key FDA guidelines. In three outbreaks, however, the implicated sprouts were produced by firms that appeared to have implemented key FDA guidelines. Although seed chlorination, if consistently applied, reduces pathogen burden on sprouts, it does not eliminate the risk of human infection. Further seed and sprouts disinfection technologies, some recently developed, will be needed to enhance sprouts safety and reduce human disease. Improved seed production practices could also decrease pathogen burden but, because seeds are a globally distributed commodity, will require international cooperation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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