Sprouts present a human health risk because the conditions under which the sends are produced and where they are typically produced are also ideal for the growth of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. The CDC and FDA reports that between 1996 and July 2016 there were 46 reported outbreaks associated with sprouts in the United States, accounting for 2474 illnesses, 187 hospitalizations, and three deaths. My friends at Barfblog have an ever expanding list that covers a few more years and a great swath of the world.
This week the FDA released a draft guidance to help sprout operations meet the new standards set forth under the Produce Safety Rule designed to help keep sprouts freer of contamination and safer for consumers to eat.
In general, the Produce Safety Rule sets science-based standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables on farms (for produce for human consumption). The Produce Safety Rule requires, in relevant part, that covered sprout operations take measures to prevent the introduction of dangerous microbes into seeds or beans used for sprouting, test spent sprout irrigation water (or, in some cases, in-process sprouts) for the presence of certain pathogens, test the growing, harvesting, packing and holding environment for the presence of the Listeria species or Listeria monocytogenes, and take corrective actions when needed.
The largest covered sprout operations must come into compliance with all applicable provisions of the Produce Safety Rule by January 26, 2017. Covered sprout operations that are small and very small businesses have compliance dates of January 26, 2018 and January 28, 2019, respectively.
Me, I will just skip them.