Monday, February 15, 2010

Revisiting Alfalfa Sprouts

Pythagorian asked: I read your warning about alfalfa sprouts and wonder how and what bleaching methods you recommend. Also I have read a claim that there has never been a case of sprout contamination traced to certified organic sprouts. Do you know if this is true or false?

The common commercial process is shock chlorination of the seeds and chlorination of the water.

The organic claim will be false. The main issue is you have a protein-rich food source that you are keeping wet and warm for several days. Any bacteria present will thrive. This has nothing to do with the organic status of the food, bacteria is naturally present in the environment. In some ways organic produce may have more bacteria. This is not a bad thing, just a consequence of things growing in the open.

Chlorination will kill the bacteria. Other processes might too. My observation is that there is not much margin for error. Warm and wet, bacteria will double in numbers every 20 minutes and most sprouts are eaten uncooked.

The Chinese eat lots of sprouts, without problems, but they stir-fry them and this kills the pathogens.