Sprouts may sound cute, but the tiny greens have sickened more than 2,500 people and caused 186 hospitalizations and three deaths in the past two decades, a new report finds.
"Sprout contamination continues to pose a serious public health concern," the researchers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wrote in their report. The arm of the FDA that wrote the new report focuses on investigating outbreaks and finding ways to prevent them. The findings on sprouts were presented on Oct. 28 at IDWeek 2016, a meeting in New Orleans of several organizations focused on infectious diseases. The report on sprouts has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
From 1996 to August 2016, 48 outbreaks of illness were associated with sprouts, the researchers found.
Alfalfa sprouts were the most common culprit during the study period, with 30 outbreaks. There were seven outbreaks linked to clover sprouts, six outbreaks linked to mung bean sprouts, two outbreaks linked to unspecified sprouts, two outbreaks linked to multiple sprout types and one outbreak linked to a food ingredient called sprouted chia powder, the FDA found.
Sprouts carried a number of different types of bacteria, the researchers found. Salmonella was implicated in the greatest number of outbreaks, at 35, followed by Escherichia coli (11 outbreaks) and Listeria monocytogenes (two outbreaks), according to the report.
Of the three sprout-related deaths during the study period, two were attributed to Salmonella and one to Listeria.