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Kimberley Caruso BSc, BEd, BASc, CPHI(C)

In recent years, the consumption of sprouts in Canada has increased. Although sprouts, such as bean and alfalfa sprouts are nutritious, they have been linked to several food-borne outbreaks in the past. Sprouts provide great breeding grounds for bacteria, like Salmonella and E.coli O157:H7, which have the potential to cause severe illness in certain individuals, especially young children.

The bacteria found in sprouts are often already present in the seed, even before the sprout starts to grow. When the seed sprouts, they are kept in the temperature danger zone where bacteria are reproducing and increasing in number.  For this reason, sprouts are considered a potentially hazardous food. Even if you are doing your best to ensure they are handled and prepared safely, they may still be able to cause illness.

Young children should never consume raw sprouts, however if you choose to serve cooked sprouts in your day nursery, here are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of sprout-caused food-borne illness:

  • Purchase sprouts from approved sources as these will likely have been produced using practices that reduce the amount of contamination
  • Store sprouts at refrigeration temperatures (4°C/40°F or lower)
  • Do not use sprouts that are past their expiration dates or if they appear slimy or discoloured

Combining and implementing all of these practices may reduce the risk of food-borne illness to the children.

Did you know?

If you have any questions about the use of sprouts in your day nursery, feel free to contact the Duty Inspector at the Porcupine Health Unit at 1-705-267-1181 (or toll free at 1-800-461-1818) Ext. 2996 or email us at