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Last updated January 1, 2014

Alfalfa Sprouts: Health Food or Health Risk?

Navy Environmental Health Center, Norfolk VA


Still not convinced that alfalfa sprouts are not a suitable food in your iguana's diet? Read on - and you may eliminate them from yours!

The April 1996 edition of Food Protection Report reports the implication of alfalfa sprouts in another outbreak of salmonellosis. The latest outbreak consisted of approximately 150 confirmed cases of salmonellosis in Oregon and British Columbia over the past few months. The largest outbreak occurred last summer, involving at least 230 illnesses in 27 states.

The seeds harvested around the world are collected at one of a handful of major alfalfa seed markets where brokers and distributors then disperse them internationally. This explains why Finland had the same Salmonella stanley problem as the U. S. last summer. As a raw agricultural product, alfalfa seeds in the field are exposed to potentially disease carrying rodents or birds. The germination process, which involves keeping the seeds warm and moist for 5-7 days, is optimum for the multiplication of some bacteria. Sprouts are rarely washed or cooked prior to consumption, since those steps damage their consistency and shorten their shelf life.

The International Sprout Growers Association is currently working with the FDA in developing a plan to improve sanitation procedures used by shippers and growers of alfalfa sprouts.

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