Health experts in Britain have issued a warning over the consumption of raw bean sprouts following the alarming increase in cases of Salmonella.
Raw bean sprouts should be washed and cooked before eating, the Health Protection Agency advised, after identifying 125 cases of the Salmonella Bareilly infection in the UK since the start of August.
The agency said it normally sees fewer than 10 salmonella cases a month.
Professor Qutub Syed, who chairs the outbreak control team that is investigating the cases, said: ?Questioning people with confirmed Salmonella Bareilly infection produced some evidence of a link with bean sprouts and we have now isolated Salmonella from a bean sprout sample.
"Although we won?t know for a few days if it is the same strain of Salmonella as in the human cases, it is an important development in the investigation."
The HPA's Centre for Infections in Colindale, north London, identified 102 cases in England, three in Wales and one in Northern Ireland, while 19 cases were confirmed in Scotland.
The agency advises washing raw bean sprouts and cooking them thoroughly before eating, unless labelled as 'ready to eat'.
?It is also important for people who prepare meals in catering establishments and in the home to keep raw bean sprouts separate from other salad products, including 'ready to eat' bean sprouts, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination," Syed added.
"If there is any doubt as to whether bean sprouts are 'ready to eat', or in the absence of clear preparation instructions, the FSA (Food Standards Agency) advises that bean sprouts should be washed and thoroughly cooked as a precaution. If this advice is followed bean sprouts will be safe to eat."