The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has evaluated the public health risk of Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and other pathogenic bacteria that may contaminate seeds intended for sprouting and sprouted seeds (sprouts, shoots and cress). Recognising that sprouted seeds are generally consumed raw or minimally processed, the Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ Panel) concludes that sprouted seeds are ready-to-eat foods with food safety concerns because certain pathogenic bacteria can contaminate seeds and grow during sprouting.
Furthermore, preventing initial contamination during production, storage and distribution of seeds is of the foremost importance, as sprouted seeds have the potential to cause large food-borne outbreaks. Operators producing sprouted seeds should strive to implement additional food safety management measures across the whole sprout production chain. Stakeholders at all parts of the production chain and consumers, including also those practising home-sprouting, should be informed of the food safety risk posed by sprouted seeds.