Children, the Elderly and those with weakened immune systems should not eat raw or undercooked sprouts - the recent warning given to Canadians by Health Canada.
"Eat veggies full of vitamins and minerals, foods such as broccoli, cauliflower and green beans help to keep us strong, energetic and healthy" - a usual advice by a mother, but not recently, certain varieties of products, especially sprouts, eaten in homes and at restaurants have been blamed for bringing on sickness and even death.
A strain of E.coli bacteria (called O157:H7) has tainted packaged lettuce and spinach around the country. Experts say that it is because of all the layers of leaves in spinach and lettuces, making the bacteria stick to it easily.
The federal agency reported that sprouts, including mung bean and alfalfa sprouts, which are considered as low-calorie diets, may carry bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli O157:H7. Fresh produce can sometimes be contaminated with harmful bacteria while in the field or during storage or handling - They warn.
Many outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli infections have been linked to contaminated sprouts. A 2005-Report says that more than 650 people fell ill in Ontario, with salmonella after eating the contaminated sprouts. Health Canada had announced a new policy in December on managing health risks related with the consumption of sprouts.
Escherichia coli bacteria, often referred as E.coli, are commonly found in the intestines of animals and humans. E.coli infections can lead to high blood pressure, kidney damage, chronic diarrhea, allergies and death.
Its symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and fever and usually occurs within 2 to 10 days after eating contaminated food. People experiencing these symptoms should immediately contact a doctor. Approximately 6,000 to 12,000 cases of salmonella are reported in Canada each year.
Steps to Avoid E.coli Contamination:
· Purchase only crisp sprouts that have been refrigerated
· Shoppers should use tongs or a glove when bagging the sprouts
· Always make sure that the sprouts are thoroughly cooked while eating in homes or restaurants
· Never store raw vegetables on shelves below uncooked meat, as infected blood from the meat can drip onto the produce
· To prevent cross-contamination between meats and vegetables, use separate knives and cutting boards
· Wash your hands before and after handling any type of food
Since the outbreaks began, public health officials from the CDC, Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture have been working together to identify the source of the E.coli O157:H7 infections.
Some of the Investigators speculated that bacteria-laden manure from dairy farms would have contaminated the spinach and lettuce growing in close proximity. Another theory is that water used to wash the produce may have been contaminated with animal feces from nearby farms. Some other Experts feel that E.coli O157:H7 outbreaks are due to the cross-contamination of meats and vegetables in the factories.
However, further tests are currently being conducted to determine what type of food may have caused the outbreak.