cooking and eatingSprouts are popular as a garnish on summer salads and are known for their high nutritional value, but they are also known for their risk of salmonella or E. coli contamination. How (Not) Healthy Sprouts Actually Are?
Germinated vegetables are small, just growing plants that do not grow in soil, but are planted in a tank of water, after which they germinate spontaneously. The most famous example is the bean sprout, which is the seed of the mung bean. Alfalfa, alfalfa germ, radish, broccoli and beetroot sprouts are also common. You often see them as a garnish on salads, in oriental stir-fries, or on sandwiches with hummus or cheese.
“Sprouts fit into a healthy diet just like other vegetables,” says Wieke van der Vossen, a food safety expert at Nutrition Center. ,, It contains nutrients, fiber, and vitamins such as vitamin C and various B vitamins. At the same time, like other vegetables, sprouts contain few calories. A good addition to your list.”
But bacteria such as Escherichia coli and salmonella can also be found on the sprouts. This is not surprising: Spores thrive in moist, warm conditions, which are exactly the conditions bacteria thrive in. Many people leave young vegetables out of fear of food infections.
There are very few foods that can be 100% healthy.
Always a slight risk of contamination
Justified? “It’s hard to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to that,” says Marcel Zwettering, professor of food microbiology at Wageningen University & Research. “There are very few foods that are 100 percent safe to eat. There is always a small risk of infection. Some time ago, there was another outbreak of salmonella in Ferrero chocolate, such as Kinder Surprise, and now there is an outbreak of salmonella in peanut butter in the United States. But that doesn’t mean you should never eat chocolate or peanut butter again.”
The last major outbreak of pathogenic E. coli in sprouts was in Germany in 2011. Since then, EU rules have been tightened, says prof. “Seed batches from sprouts are checked first before they are used and further samples are taken from the finished products. The water system in which they are grown is also checked.” With success, because after 2011 there were no major outbreaks of buds.
“The chance has been lower since 2011, but the risk cannot be completely ruled out,” Zvetring concludes. Variation in your diet and vegetable rotation is important for staying healthy, so keep eating your vegetables. Sprouting vegetables can sometimes be a good addition to your dishes.
This way you can eat the sprouts more safely
What can you do yourself to reduce the risk of infection? “Always check the best dates before you buy and eat them, and see if they still look fresh,” says Wieke van der Vossen. Store the sprouts in the refrigerator at 4 °C. Immediately before eating, rinse them under running water and then let them dry. Heat kills bacteria so heating is the safer option. You can do this by immersing them in boiling water for five seconds, or by deep-frying them on your plate.”
Just like raw meat, for example, it is also not recommended to consume raw sprouts for pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with weakened resistance. “If these products are heated through and through, they can be eaten safely,” the food safety expert concludes.
Can raw fruits and vegetables be harmful during pregnancy? How can you prevent foodborne infections during pregnancy? Nutritionist Sharon Asscher offers tips on raw fruits and vegetables during pregnancy at Ouders van Nu.
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