Alfalfa is a perennial legume and a legume is a plant species that can be used for multiple applications. Legumes are extremely important in a human diet. Beans, lentils, peas and soybeans are all legumes that are commonly eaten by humans. The root nodules in legumes such as alfalfa contain bacteria and should never be consumed raw. Alfalfa is normally used in cattle feed however the tender shoots are commonly eaten by humans and dehydrated alfalfa is found in many dietary supplements. Alfalfa is also believed to be a lactation inducing substance. Most people don’t eat adult alfalfa plants because of the high fiber content.
Alfalfa sprouts have always been a big hit on sandwiches and salads for anyone watching their diet and alfalfa sprouts are big among health food and vegan eateries.
However over the years in some cases alfalfa sprouts have been linked to E coli including an extremely dangerous strain of E coli. E coli damages healthy cells in the intestinal tract and can result in blood loss. E coli can also lead to kidney failure, hemolytic uremia and in some cases be fatal. Raw alfalfa has also had several outbreaks of salmonella over the years.
A salmonella bacterial infection is very dangerous to anyone, however it can cause life threatening results in pregnant women, young children, people with immune deficiencies and the elderly. Salmonella normally causes gastroenteritis in people, and most people get salmonella from eating raw or undercooked products such as meat, egg or poultry.
When someone gets salmonella it can take several hours to two days before there are any signs. Signs of gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, chills, high fever, blood in stool and abdominal problems such as diarrhea. Salmonella bacteria can enter a person by eating foods that have been contaminated by feces. In some cases salmonella is passed by people who don’t wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet.
Therefore raw alfalfa sprouts should never be eaten by women who are pregnant because of the real health risks they pose due to bacteria. The Food and Drug Administration recommended over a year ago that people not consume raw alfalfa sprouts due to a salmonella outbreak. The salmonella outbreak was believed to be caused by infected seeds which are sold throughout the US. Although the FDA warning never included other sprouts or bean products, women who are pregnant because of the increased risk of bacteria should refrain from eating any sprouts or bean products, not just alfalfa.
The reason is the seeds are held in conditions where the bacteria can remain stagnant for a long time, however the bacteria is then restarted when they sprout. Any bacteria from the sprouts is then transmitted not only to the pregnant woman but will then be subsequently transmitted on to the fetus in the womb.
Although fully cooked sprouts were left out of the advisory a year ago, raw or lightly cooked alfalfa sprouts still pose a real risk to pregnant women due to dangerous bacteria.
If you or anyone you know has eaten alfalfa sprouts raw and are undergoing some abdominal problems you should seek medical attention. Salmonella bacterial infections can be extremely dangerous and although most people may not suffer severe problems it is better to be safe than sorry. Please see your doctor if you think you maybe sick from eating raw alfalfa sprouts.
References for this article include: www.anapsid.org/sprouts3.html