Food Bourne illness affects 76 millions of people and kills about 5000 annually in the United States. In most cases, contamination occurs on lettuce, sprouts, tomatoes, and berries among others. Sprouts vary from broccoli, alfalfa, and clovers among others; hence, contamination occurs in many ways, from scarification where harmful bacteria penetrates to the seeds. Animals that graze on the forms could also contaminate vegetation with their faeces and when these vegetables are transported, they may be exposed to dirt and dust, which contributes to illness. In addition, the consumer mainly ignores washing the vegetables, thus leading to contamination. Moreover, the sprouts are grown under moist conditions that yield to the growth of bacteria’s (Dechet, 2005). The presence of bacteria such as E-coli in human body is harmful for their health since it is related to food Bourne diseases that result from consumption of contaminated food.
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Contamination of sprouts should therefore be prevented from the first stage and the affected products should be destroyed to avoid further contamination. Biocide treatment on the farms where sprouts are grown would be effective, only if used in the correct manner, hence proving to be safe for human consumption (Fahey, et al 2006, pp2). Contamination of sprouts may occur at any stage starting from production of seeds to distribution of the product. According to Gill, et al (2003 pp 474), “seeds may be reared, harvested, milled and sprouted locally or globally to sprout growers, hence bacterial contamination may occur at any stage in this chain.” The author further explains that when seeds are soaked in water for 3-7 days, it contributes to the growth of pathogens especially on the alfalfa seeds after two to three days. However, the pathogens on alfalfa can be reduced by treating their seeds with 20,000 ppm calcium hypochlorite. In addition, contamination should be considered before the seeds are planted, which is very important as it determines the rate of contamination throughout the growth process.
The treatment of seeds before plantation should be the key objective in the growing of sprouts. According to Fahey, et al (2006 pp 2), seeds are usually exposed to 20,000 ppm of calcium hypochlorite for a 15 minute period; thereafter, the seeds are rinsed to eliminate chlorine residual. When sprouts are grown in drums, there is enough provision of light, which is necessary for their growth. Microbial tests should be encouraged since they are effective for identifying contaminated sprouts, which should be destroyed. As a matter of fact, contamination should be prevented from stage one to the final stage. This entails that the seeds of the sprouts be disinfected before they are planted and if any sprouts are infected in the process of growth, they should be eliminated to avoid further contamination. Hygiene should also be promoted from the farms to the house. This is important, as it will reduce the chances of infection when the vegetables are fit for consumption.
Consumers should also be keen in ensuring that they thoroughly wash and precook vegetables before consumption, as these methods eliminate any harmful bacteria left on the sprouts. Food Bourne diseases prevention is both a task of the government, farmers, and consumers, as each of them has a specific role to play. It is evident that most contamination arises from the seeds, as it may be affected by pathogens while harvesting, in storage and while being distributed. Therefore, caution should be taken from the first stage to consumption (WHO, 2005). Given that one of the major causes of contamination by the E. coli on the alfalfa is the animal faeces of the animals that are affected by the bacteria (Brown, 1998), measures to prevent the contamination from animals should be enhanced by washing the vegetables thoroughly before consumption. However, farmers should also ensure that the infected animal faeces do not come into contact with sprouts, while the farms in which seeds are harvested should be disinfected to prevent contamination with any bacteria.
Brown, E. (1998). E. coli now in our alfalfa sprouts? Medical Update, Vol. 21, and Issue 7.
Detchet, A. (2005). Food Bourne illness outbreaks and sprout. FDA public meeting: 2005 sprout safety. Centre for disease control and prevention. Web.
Fahey, J. et al. (2006). Pathogen detection, testing, and control in fresh broccoli sprouts. Nutrition journal, Vol. 5. Retrieved from ebscohost.
Gill, C. et al. 2003. Alfalfa seed decontamination in a salmonella outbreak. Emerging infectious diseases, Vol. 9, Issue 4, pp. 474-9.
WHO. (2005). Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC). Web.