Review of the Microbiological Risks Associated with Sprouted Seeds

Review of the microbiological risks associated with sprouted seeds

CCFRA Review No. 41 (2004)

Nikki Beales

Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association Group

Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire,GL55 6LDUK

Assure the safety of sprouted seed products by understanding and addressing the microbiological risks associated with them.

Sprouted seeds, unlike other fresh produce, present an unusual safety problem. Bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli   O157:H7 can, if present, multiply during germination and sprouting so that the sprouted seeds become a vehicle for transmission of these foodborne pathogens, especially if consumed uncooked with meals such as salads. In Japan, for example, sprouted seeds were implicated in an outbreak of E. coli O157 involving over 6,000 cases. A further complicating factor is that seeds such as these are produced primarily for agricultural sowing for crop production, with only a very small proportion used directly as food, so that the stringent measures associated with good agricultural practice might not be adopted by all producers.

This review pulls together information, from the scientific literature, on the microbiological risks associated with sprouted seeds, including potential sources of contamination during seed production, sprouting, harvesting, packing, storage and distribution. It also discusses approaches to reducing the risk of microbiological contamination – through systems such as good agricultural practice, good manufacturing practice and HACCP- and outlines approaches for detecting potential contamination. It will be of interest to all involved in the production, distribution and sale of sprouted seed food products.


  • Introduction
  • Outbreaks associated with sprouted seeds
  • Other pathogens associated with sprouted seeds
  • Sources of contamination during seed production
  • Sources of contamination during sprouted seed production
  • Contamination of sprouted seeds during harvesting, packing, storage and distribution
  • Methods for reduction in risk of contamination of seeds
  • Detection methods
  • Conclusions and references

Soft cover – 75 pages

Ordering Information: