Demographic Factors Associated with the Consumption of Sprouts Among California Women

Demographic Factors Associated with the Consumption of Sprouts Among California Women

Board 59

J. C. Mohle-Boetani, S. B. Werner, D. J. Vugia

California Department of Health Services, Berkeley, CA

Background: Alfalfa sprouts are considered by many to be a healthful food and the consumption of sprouts has increased greatly in the United States in the past 30 years. Ironically, in California in the past 5 years, there have been more than 10 outbreaks of salmonellosis or E. coli O157:H7 infections due to contaminated alfalfa or clover sprouts and involving predominantly adult women.

Methods: To evaluate demographic factors associated with alfalfa sprout consumption, we used data from the 1999 California Women's Health Study Survey (CWHS), an on-going monthly telephone survey which collects information on a wide variety of health-related behaviors and attitudes from a sample of randomly selected adult women who reside in California. We conducted a logistic regression using the software Stata. Eating alfalfa sprouts in the past year was the outcome variable.  

Results: Of the 3858 women in the study, 45% ate sprouts in the 12 months prior to the interview. Consumption of sprouts varied by race/ethnic group: among whites 52% ate sprouts vs. 39% of Blacks, 31% of Hispanics, and 48% of Asians. The proportion consuming alfalfa sprouts increased with household income. Consumption of sprouts also varied by age group with the highest sprout consumption in the middle age groups (median age 44). Overall 23% had heard that sprouts can cause foodborne illness. In the logistic regression model we found that, for all race/ethnic groups other than Asian, increasing income is associated with a greater odds of eating sprouts. For Asian women there is no income effect. At lower income levels Asians and Whites have a higher odds of eating sprouts than Hispanics while at the highest income level (>$50K) there is no race/ethnicity difference. Among 44 year olds at the lowest income level (<$10K), Asians have a higher odds of eating sprouts than whites (OR=2.35, 95% CI= 1.1-5.3), but at the highest income level, they have a lower odds of eating sprouts (OR=0.67, 95% CI= 0.47-0.97). Knowledge of the risk of the consumption of sprouts did not significantly improve the logistic regression model.  

Discussion: Sprout-related outbreaks in California have involved predominantly adult women. Our study shows that, among California women, sprout consumption increases with higher incomes and is more common among Asians and whites compared to Hispanics. However, knowledge of sprouts as a hazardous food did not correlate with consumption. Better prevention strategies targeted at women eating sprouts are needed.