Sprout Industry Supplier Leading Industry Toward Safer Sprouts

SproutIndustry Supplier Leading Industry Toward Safer Sprouts

SteveMeyerowitz

April 7, 2000

Sproutsare one of the most nutritious foods on earth and researchers are now justbeginning to find all the many health benefits that sprouts can provide.However, in the last couple years the sprout industry has been flogged by thepress because of several outbreaks of Salmonella and E-Coli 0157:H7 in sprouts.These outbreaks have appeared in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan and haveinvolved over 7300 confirmed cases of people who have become ill from eatingcontaminated alfalfa, radish, clover and bean sprouts. 

Sois the problem with the seed, seed suppliers, or with the sprout growers? 

Theanswer is - all three.  Seed is araw agricultural product that can become contaminated in the field or duringharvest, storage, processing, transport or warehousing of the seed. If the contaminated seed is not properly sanitized before sprouting,there is a chance that pathogens can quickly multiply.

Inprinciple, this multiplication process should also be occurring in thehydroponics industry on a variety of products such as hydroponic lettuce. The largest and most serious outbreak in "sprouts" was inradish sprouts grown in Japan.  Morethan 6000 of the 7300 confirmed cases came from radish sprouts grown in Japan. These sprouts were not grown using the same techniques used by commercialsprout producers.  They were grownusing similar methods as are used to produce hydroponic lettuce. Very, little if any investigation on this subject has been done.

Whatis being done to make sprouts safe? 

Themain supplier to the sprouting industry, International Specialty Supply (ISS) ofCookeville, Tennessee has attacked the problem from all directions. They have developed a method to screen the seed they sell for pathogens. According to Bob Rust, President of ISS, "This does not guaranteethe seed is free of pathogens but we were able to screen out seven lots of seedin the last three months that were contaminated". "We are currently working on a method to actually decontaminate theseed before it is shipped out to the growers. However, no matter what we do, the sprout growers need to takeresponsibility and sanitize the seed before they sprout it."

ISSnot only supplies seed; they design and manufacture the equipment used in sproutproduction. "ISS's experience in providing sprouting equipmentinternationally has lead to the design of the most sanitary and state-of-the-artequipment in the sprouting industry" according to Rob Carver, CarverResearch Associates, Inc. located in Nashville, Tennessee.  CRA is anindependent consultant and third party inspection company in the sproutingindustry.

SungardenSprout Company, a division of ISS, has been providing sprouts the SoutheasternUS since 1979.  They grow and sell alfalfa, radish, red and green lentils,green peas, bean sprouts, onion, broccoli and cowpeas.    They also sell dehydrated peas and beans.

KellyWarren, RN, manages Sungarden's HACCP plan and research lab, testing each cropfor Salmonella, E-coli 0157 H7 and Total Aerobic Plate Count. According to Ms. Warren, "This insures the sprouts Sungarden sellsare safe.  It also insures that theseed ISS sells is continually tested for pathogens - possibly one of the reasonsthat ISS seed has never been involved in an outbreak."

TheFDA recommends using 20,000 PPM calcium hypochlorite for disinfecting seeds usedfor sprouting.  According to Mr.Carver, "If growers buy seed that is tested for pathogens, disinfect itunder the FDA guidelines, and test the sprouts the way Sungarden does, sproutswill be one of the safest products on earth. In the sprouting industry ISS is the elite of the elite. In the seed andequipment industry they have no peers."

HealthBenefits of Sprouts
Sprouts havelong been famous as "health food" but recent research shows that inaddition to being a superb source of nutrients, they also have importantcurative ability. Sprouts like alfalfa, radish, broccoli, clover and soybeancontain concentrated amounts of phytochemicals (plant compounds) that canprotect us against disease.

Studieson canavanine, an amino acid analog in alfalfa, has demonstrated benefit forpancreatic, colon and leukemia cancers. Plant estrogens are also abundant insprouts. They increase bone formation and density and prevent bone breakdown orosteoporosis. They are also helpful in controlling hot flashes, menopause, PMSand fibrocystic breast tumors.

Alfalfasprouts are one of our finest food sources of another compound, saponins.Saponins lower the bad cholesterol and fat but not the good HDL fats. Animalstudies prove their benefit in arteriosclerosis is and cardiovascular disease.Saponins also stimulate the immune system by increasing the activity of naturalkiller cells such as T- lymphocytes and interferon. The saponin content ofalfalfa sprouts multiplies 450% over that of the unsprouted seed.

Sproutsalso contain an abundance of highly active antioxidants that prevent DNAdestruction and protect us from the ongoing effects of aging. It wouldn't beinconceivable to find a fountain of youth here, after all, sprouts represent themiracle of birth.