Microbiological Analysis of Seed Sprouts in Norway

Microbiological analysis of seed sprouts in Norway.
Int J Food Microbiol 2002 May 5;75(1-2):119-26
Robertson LJ, Johannessen GS, Gjerde BK, Loncarevi S.
Department of Pharmacology, Microbiology and Food Hygiene, The Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo. lucy.robertson@veths.no

As part of larger survey of microbial contamination of fruits and vegetables in Norway, four different sprouted seed products were analysed for bacterial and parasitic contaminants (n = 300 for bacterial analyses and n = from 17 to 171 for parasite analyses, depending on parasite). Escherichia coli O157, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Cyclospora oocysts, Ascaris eggs and other helminth parasites were not detected in any of the sprout samples. Thermotolerant coliform bacteria (TCB) were isolated from approximately 25% of the sprout samples, with the highest percentage of TCB positive samples in alfalfa sprouts. Most TCB were Enterobacter spp. and Klebsiella. E. coli was isolated from 8 of 62 TCB positive mung bean sprout samples. Cryptosporidium oocysts were detected in 8% of the sprout samples and Giardia cysts were detected in 2% of the samples. All the Cryptosporidium positive samples, and most of the Giardia positive samples, were mung bean sprouts. Parasite concentrations in positive samples were low (between 1 and 3 oocysts/cysts per 50 g sprouts). Sprout irrigation water was also analysed for microbial contaminants. E. coli O157 and L. monocytogenes were not detected. TCB were isolated from approximately 40% of the water samples. Salmonella reading was isolated from three samples of spent irrigation water on 3 consecutive days. Cryptosporidium and Giardia were also isolated from spent irrigation water. Additionally, eight samples of unsprouted mung bean seed were analysed for Cryptosporidium oocysts and Giardia cysts. One or both of these parasites were detected in six of the unsprouted seed samples at concentrations of between 1 and 5 oocysts/cysts per 100 g unsprouted seed. Whilst our results support spent irrigation water as the most suitable matrix for testing for bacteria, unsprouted seed is considered the more useful matrix for analysing for parasite contaminants.