After my article about sprouts in smoothies, I received this question via email:


“I no longer eat sprouts of any kind.  There have been incidences of people becoming ill from their ingestion.  Even sprouting your own can carry a risk as the bacteria can be in the seeds. Can you check into this issue an perhaps address it in a future e-mail.  I will make the green smoothie minus the sprouts. “

My Response: Are Sprouts Safe to Eat?

My short answer to this question is: Absolutely yes.

But let me explain….

Note: The decision what to include in your diet and what to exclude is entirely yours, and I’m not going to try to influence anyone. What I want is to present a few facts, statistics, and my personal opinion that put these concerns into proper context and perspective.

Worrying about food safety is a valid concern. No one wants to get sick from bacteria in the food that they eat.

After receiving the email, I searched the Internet and indeed found a few articles about sprouts being contaminated and causing outbreaks. For example, a few years ago stories about alfalfa sprouts contaminated with salmonella bacteria have made the news.

Salmonella is bad news, but no food is immune to it. All food eaten raw carry that risk including fresh fruits and vegetables, which have more pathogen outbreaks than sprouts.

Does this mean you should not eat sprouts or raw produce, and go on a 100% cooked food diet???

So I went to a few government websites, did some more research and digging, and here is what I learned.

There are 76 million cases of food borne illnesses each year; 4 million caused by salmonella, 93% of which are caused by meat, poultry, milk and eggs. The remaining 7% of cases are from shellfish, fresh fruits and vegetables. (Data according to : CDC – Center for Disease Control, and

Since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. Most of these outbreaks were caused by Salmonella and E. coli.  For all outbreaks over their entire 40 year history, U.S. sprout industry has had a total of 2,000 cases. There has never been a case of salmonella from home-grown sprouts.

So, let’s compare:

  • 76 million cases of food borne illnesses each year from all sources


  • 2,000 cases over the 40 years (about 50 per year), 30 outbreaks over the last 16 years (fewer than 2 per year) from sprouts
  • 0 (zero) reported cases of salmonella from home grown sprouts

Every food has some risks, but this one looks like one that I’m quite comfortable taking.

Especially considering the benefits of eating sprouts, leafy greens and other raw fruits and vegetables. (Let’s not forget their immune-system boosting qualities!) At the renowned Hippocrates Institute, where they routinely cure various serious diseases (including cancer), raw and living foods are the core of the program and sprouts make up 50% of the diet(!).

More Food for Thought: What’s the REAL source of contaminated food outbreaks

Each year there are millions of cases of reported sicknesses and hundreds of deaths due to food-borne pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella, and Campylobacter.

What the media never reveal is the REAL source of the contamination, and therefore, the reason for the outbreaks. In all reports, the illnesses are blamed on the specific foods.

The vital piece of information that is routinely omitted is that all these pathogens that cause sickness actually come from animal sources.

For instance, salmonella grows abundantly on chickens and other animals, so when they are killed and eaten for food, there is a high likelihood that salmonella may find its way to humans. This also occurs with E. coli, which is found in all animals. It should be no surprise that because it is found in all animals, there is a probability it will show up somewhere down the line if you eat those animals.

Pumping livestock full of antibiotics has become so commonplace that we almost take it for granted. Animals are routinely kept on low doses of antibiotics, such as penicillin, tetracycline and streptomycin, to neutralize the repercussions of filthy living conditions of thousands of animals into pens with only a few square feet of living area for each. Waste is supposed to be carried away by drainage systems operations beneath the animals, but the systems don’t always work. The end result is a cramped, dirty, stressed-out animal that often needs drugs to stay healthy or even alive. Scientists believe that this rampant overuse of antibiotic is causing the DNA of infectious pathogens like salmonella, E. coli and campylobacter to change and make the diseases resistant to the drugs that traditionally wiped them out. Once resistant, the deadly bacteria can easily survive in the animals and be transmitted to humans.

Then what causes salmonella, E. coli, and other food-borne diseases in vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and seeds? 

Plants can only be contaminated by coming into contact with polluted water through irrigation, animal fertilizers, and using animal or human feces.

Vegetables and fruits can also become contaminated if placed in close proximity to or mixed with raw poultry, meat, or eggs, and unpasteurized milk, as all of these products have supply bacteria contaminants on them naturally.

Animal flesh and secretions used for food have a high propensity for distribution of pathogens, because they are found naturally on and within the animal itself during its life, as well as during the slaughtering process. This applies to all animal products, whether it is from livestock, dairy, or fish. This just adds to the ways that eating animals creates a depletion of our health.  (Source: Comfortably Unaware, by Richard Oppenlander)

What about warnings not to consume raw sprouts?

On several pages I’ve seen warnings not to consume raw sprouts. Wow, really? This seems like an extreme measure, if you ask me. Why sprouts have been singled out, I have no idea. Nobody is telling us not to eat chicken, eggs, or sushi, which carry a much greater risk, in my opinion.

7 Ways to Minimize the Risk of Consuming a Contaminated Food

1.  In case of seeds, in order to minimize risk, purchase seeds from a trusted source. The company that I buy them from has all seeds spot tested for Salmonella and E-coli. While this is not a fool-proof guarantee, it has a 99% potential to catch contaminated seed.

2.  If buying at a grocery store and you want to be extra-cautious, try giving them a hot bath before you eat them: Research has shown that you can kill salmonella by immersing contaminated sprouts in boiling water for five seconds.

3.  Wash all your raw fruits, vegetables and greens that you purchased from a store thoroughly.

4.  Don’t be a source of foodborne illness yourself. Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food. Avoid preparing food for others if you yourself have a diarrheal illness.

5.  Ban all animal products from your kitchen and switch to plant-based (vegan) diet. I know this may sound radical to many people, but all animal products, and especially raw animal flesh and secretions is a high risk food and can be a source of contamination in your own kitchen.

For example, A 2009 USDA study found that 87 percent of chicken carcasses tested positive for E. coli after chilling and just prior to packaging. One study found that 48 percent of all chicken samples tested positive for feces. Chicken feces may also contain roundworms, hair worms, tapeworms, insect larvae, fecally-excreted drugs and other chemicals, as well as the more normal constituents of feces — bile, undigested food, etc.

6.  If you are unwilling to eliminate meat and dairy, make sure you separate your plant foods from animal flesh and secretions in your kitchen (using separate utensils, cutting board, etc; and washing these thoroughly in hot water or dishwasher), and cook these foods to the recommended temperature. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends extreme caution and care when handling raw chicken, which includes meticulously cleaning and sterilizing kitchen surfaces that are exposed to the meat. And skip sushi. Let’s not forget about parasites and amoebas that are commonly found in fish (yikes!). In fact, seafood is one of the top causes of food-borne illness in the U.S.

7. If you are a gardener and grow your own fruits and vegetables, switch to organic, manure-free gardening methods. Fertilizers such as blood and bone meal, slaughterhouse sludge, fish emulsion, and manures may carry dangerous diseases that breed in intensive animal production operations. Vegan-organic gardening is a safer, healthier way to grow our food, whereby soil fertility is maintained using vegetable compost, green manures, crop rotation, mulching, and other sustainable, ecological methods.


To learn more about various diseases that come from animal agriculture, I highly recommend listening to this podcast: The “Lethal Gifts of Livestock” podcast. You can also find it on iTunes, episode 39.

Foodborne Illness FAQ CDC – Center for Disease Control

Fecal Contamination in Retail Chicken Products A Report from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

There’s Poop in Our Chicken Meat! Huffington Post.


Questions? Comments? Suggestions?

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I also welcome any comments, questions and suggestions. Thanks!