OTTAWA - Cook those bean sprouts well, advises Health Canada, if you want to reduce the risk of exposure to food borne illness.
"Children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to these bacteria and should not eat any raw sprouts at all," Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Wednesday.
"They should also avoid eating cooked sprouts unless they can be sure the sprouts have been thoroughly cooked."
The agencies note that sprouts from alfalfa and mung beans are a popular choice for Canadians as a low-calorie, healthy ingredient for many meals. Onion, radish, mustard and broccoli sprouts, not to be confused with the actual plant or vegetable, are also options.
But they may carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, which can lead to serious illness.
The largest recent outbreak in Canada linked to sprouts was in the fall of 2005, when more than 648 cases of salmonella were reported in Ontario.
Healthy adults who choose to eat sprouts are urged to ensure they buy crisp ones that have been refrigerated and avoid those that appear dark or smell musty. They should also use tongs or a glove to place the sprouts in a plastic bag.
Symptoms from salmonella usually occur 12 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, while symptoms from E. coli can occur within two to 10 days.
Symptoms can include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach cramps. People who experience these symptoms should contact a doctor immediately. In extreme cases, E. coli can lead to acute kidney failure or even death.