The purpose of this advisory is to provide proper storage and handling guidelines for retail food facility operators, and to prevent foodborne illness associated with the consumption of raw seed sprouts.
The State of California, Department of Public Health recognizes raw seed sprouts to be a potentially hazardous food. Raw seed sprouts have been shown to support the rapid and progressive growth of infectious microorganisms such as Salmonella spp. and Escherichia coli 0157:H7. Since 1995, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also recognized raw seed sprouts as a source of foodborne illness in the United States. In addition, the FDA has listed raw seed sprouts as a “Potentially Hazardous Food” in the 1999 Federal Model Food Code.
Alfalfa sprouts, the most common form of raw seed sprouts available in the market place, have been the cause of most reported sprout-related foodborne illness outbreaks. Other types of sprouts that have also been implicated in reported sprout-related foodborne illness outbreaks are radish sprouts, clover sprouts, and mung bean sprouts. In most reported sprout-related outbreaks, the likely source of contamination was the seed. However, unsafe food practices have also contributed to the contamination of sprouts.
In order to minimize the contamination of sprouts due to unsafe food practices, retail food facility operators handling, storing or serving raw seed sprouts shall comply with the following guidelines: