Tell it to The Packer | Letter to the Editor

Bob Rust, president and chief executive officer
International Specialty Supply

At the request of the Food and Drug Administration, I recently gave a presentation about sprouts at the International Association of Food Protection Convention in Providence, R.I.

Although the topic was “Best Practices for Safer Production of Sprouts: A Seed Supplier’s Perspective,” I took a few minutes to discuss why removing sprouts from restaurants and supermarkets is misguided.

After the meeting the food safety director of a major supermarket chain came up to me and said that this is the type of information that everyone needs to hear.

So I thought I would share the thoughts with your readership.

It is true that there have been a substantial number of recalls and outbreaks involving pathogens in sprouts.

But if we step away from the microscope for a minute, it is the bigger picture that is important to all Americans.

According the Centers for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. One in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day.

So in the last 10 years over 8 million people died from cardiovascular disease. During that same period of time nobody in the U.S. died from eating sprouts.

In the last 10 years more than 1% of the U.S. population died from illness related to smoking. Yet instead of Wal-Mart pulling cigarettes, Cokes, M&Ms and Twinkies off the shelves, they quit selling sprouts.

On the other hand, as baby plants, sprouts are loaded with micronutrients, many of which just dilute as they pick up water and become mature plants.

Each sprout, for instance, may have as many glucosinolates as an entire mature plant.

Peer-reviewed research from the scientific community indicates that various sprouts can help prevent, reduce, or control a wide variety of illnesses, including, alzheimer’s, high cholesterol, diabetes and arthritis.

There are about 2,200 crucifer sprouts such as radish, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

With crucifer sprouts the enzyme myrosinase and the glucosinolate glucoraphanin combine when chewed to make a powerful isothiocyanate called sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane is the most potent natural antioxidant available anywhere.

When crucifer sprouts are consumed they can have 20 to 100 times the amount of antioxidants as when they mature into a head of broccoli, for instance.

In fact, crucifer sprouts are so loaded with antioxidants that they had a positive effect on all cancers tested.

Fresh sprouts are among the nutritious foods that stores and restaurants need to carry if we are to control our health care costs and get back on track to building a healthier population.

If diets that include bacon cheeseburgers with mayo and fries were replaced with diets including sprouts, Americans would live longer, healthier lives and health care costs would fall through the floor.