Sprouts on your sandwich?

We all know that the sprouts have high vitamin content, are rich in enzymes and phyto nutrients and strengthen our immune system. In general, they are good for us. Is it worth being ill? Is it worth loosing work/productive time?

Around the holiday season last year, people started getting sick from eating raw sprouts on sandwiches from a well-known sandwich chain, primarily in Indiana. After about 140 confirmed cases, the sprouts were linked to an organic farm based in Illinois. The Food and Drug Administration released a 6-page inspection report in Feb. 2011, and found the company in numerous violations.

Some comments from the report findings:

  • Company grew sprouts in “soil from the organic material decomposed outside” without using any monitored “kill step” on it.
  • An “amphibian/reptile” was kept in the reception room of the firm, which adjoined the production area.
  • The firm couldn’t show that its antimicrobial treatment for seeds was the recommended treatment with a bleach solution.
  • Employees stored their lunches, including such items as raw bacon, in the same cooler where finished sprouts were stored.
  • Organic matter was seen on a table where sprouts were packaged, and a biofilm-like buildup was seen on sprouting trays after they were cleaned.
  • Mold like material was seen on walls and ceiling in a mung-bean sprouting room.
  • Condensation dripped from the ceiling in production areas throughout the inspection period, which lasted close to a month.
  • An outside lab that the firm used to test its water and sprouts used a method that was not validated for detecting Salmonella in those items.
  • Investigators found a Salmonella isolate matching the outbreak strain in a sample of runoff water from the company.

The owner of the organic farm has said that the nutritional benefits outweigh the risk. He also commented “Sprouts are kind of a magical thing.” He advised people to buy sprouts from someone who have a program in place that includes outside auditors.

Independent auditors? Like the ones who said everything was OK, at the cantaloupe farm or peanut processor? We must have some accountability from these third-party auditors.

The involved chain has removed sprouts from its menu following this week’s finding by the CDC. Many have taken alfalfa sprouts off its menus. They should value the well-being of customers and remove all sprouts from menu and sandwich lines. Retail stores should stop selling these items until they are grown, harvested and processed in a safe and wholesome manner.

We are hoping that the new rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act will require certain guidelines to be acceptable.

Meanwhile, feel free to search and start growing your own sprouts if you want some on your sandwich today. Safe sprouting y’all!