Raw seed sprouts

Raw sprouts, for example alfalfa, radish, and mung bean sprouts, can carry harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli. Learn how to control the risks.

Contamination of seed sprouts

Bacteria can hide inside the seeds that produce these crops. As seeds sprout, the harmful bacteria (pathogen) grows and spreads.

Sprouts are grown in warm water, which makes it easy for pathogens from a single contaminated seed to multiply and spread through the whole crop.

Making seed sprouts safe

The only way to make this food completely safe is to cook it thoroughly.

Eating raw sprouts carries a risk of illness. It's best not to serve raw sprouts to:

  • young children and babies
  • the frail elderly
  • pregnant women
  • people who've recently had an operation
  • people who have a chronic illness or have been advised to take extra care with food safety.

Sprouting seeds at home

If you want to sprout seeds at home, you can reduce the risk of getting sick by:

  • using seeds specifically sold for human consumption
  • thoroughly cleaning and sanitising your equipment before use
  • washing your hands before and after handling seeds
  • eating sprouts within 2 days of them sprouting.

Note, these tips will not completely eliminate the risks associated with eating raw sprouts.

Buying sprouted seeds

Shop-bought sprouts are generally safer because they're grown from suitable seed, under controlled conditions. They should be safe to eat if stored according to the instructions on the label, and if consumed before their use-by date. However, the risk of illness can never be completely eliminated for raw sprouts.

Who to contact

If you have questions about food safety, email info@mpi.govt.nz.

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