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Sprout Safety

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 foodborne 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.

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 in your food premises, they may still be able to cause illness.

Here are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of sprout-caused foodborne illness in your food premises:

  • 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
  • Cook sprouts instead of serving them raw

Combining and implementing all of these practices in your food premises will reduce the risk of foodborne illness to your customers.

FoodSafe Tip:

If you have any questions about the use of sprouts in your food premises, 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