Produce: Handling Tips

Raw Sprouts: Nutritious and Dangerous


A new sprouts recall  from the FDA arrived in my inbox on August 11, and it reminded me to once again warn visitors to Shelf Life Advice that eating raw sprouts--although they are nutritious and are frequently used to decorate summer sandwiches--are also often contaminated with bacteria that cause food-borne illness.  Let's start with some details about this latest recall and then explain why sprouts are so susceptible to pathogens. Finally, we'll provide some suggestions for how to avoid them.


Good Seed Inc. of Springfield, VA is voluntarily recalling all packages of soybean sprouts and mung bean sprouts because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections to individuals with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.


Salmonella, another baceria that sometimes thrives in sprouts, can also can cause serious, occasionally fatal, illness.  The usual symptoms are diarrhea, fever, and cramps that begin within 48 hours of infection and last 4-7 days.   Serious cases require hospitalization.  Salmonella is especially dangerous for young children, the elderly, and others with weakened immune systems.


To reach a list of the specific products being recalled and other details about the Good Seed recall, go to Good Seed Inc. Recalls Soybean Sprouts and Mung Sprouts Due to A Possible Health Risk.


Raw seed sprouts (such as alfalfa and radish sprouts) have long been touted as a health food.  And there are good reasons for this: they’re an excellent source of many essential nutrients including protein, as well as being a popular, tasty addition to salads and sandwiches. However, unfortunately, sprouts are also a very common source of pathogens (especially salmonella and E.coli) and illness. (a website from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services) says that, since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts.  (Two or more cases of the same food-associated illness is considered an outbreak.)

Ethylene and Produce: Friends or Foes?

applesBuying a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables these days?  Then it's well worth knowing something about ethylene. "What's ethylene?" some may ask.  It's a plant hormone that fruits and vegetables produce naturally as they ripen.  Reducing exposure to ethylene slows the natural ripening, thereby extending produce shelf life.  The problem is that, like many gases, it's sneaky--invisible and odorless.  Nevertheless, you can infer its presence and control it to some extent.

Guide To The Proper Handling of Fresh Vegetables

AsparagusHow long do fresh vegetables  remain safe and tasty to eat? That depends, in part, on how you handle them.  Food scientist Susan Brewer, Ph.D. offers these suggestions on vegetable care from the moment the produce comes home with you to the time when you store the leftovers.

Leftover Fruit and Veggies? Dehydrate Them For Surprisingly Healthy Snacks!

Dehydrated Tomatoes

Drying foods for preservation is growing in popularity because the benefits are many.  For starters, finding a use for leftovers or inexpensive, in-season fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to avoid waste, save money, and do well for the environment.  Moreover, drying food is easy.  The sun, the oven, or your dehydrator does most of the work.  All you have to do is eat it, which is a treat because drying food intensifies the flavor.  Furthermore, dried foods require no refrigeration, are compact and lightweight, and pack a lot of nutrition, so they’re very handy to have along on a long car ride, a hike, a camping trip or even a trip to the movies with a bunch of insatiable kids. Nibbling on brought-along dried fruit is healthier (and cheaper) than candy from the movie concession.  And drying your own is a a lot cheaper than purchasing store-bought dried fruit.

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