Dear Doctor Patrick,
Recently, I discovered, and am a fan of, your podcasts talking about the multitude of amazing health benefits associated with eating broccoli sprouts. I have been enjoying sprouts and celebrating them for years. Your work is vital, and will benefit a great many people. I have been sharing one of your podcasts with many friends and associates.
Watching your interview with Dr. Jed Fahey was a real treat for me. Following the discovery of Sulforaphane in 1992, and after Johns Hopkins attempted to patent broccoli sprouts in 1997, our farm, Sunny Creek Farm, Inc., began growing broccoli sprouts for Brassica Protection Products. Dr. Paul Talalay, Johns Hopkins University, and others owned the company. During a ten-year time period, I had the great pleasure of attending many lectures given by Dr. Fahey and Dr. Talalay and speaking with them.
I do, however, have a consideration with a statement you made to Joe Rogan, in video #901. You stated, “Most grocery stores carry broccoli sprouts. The problem with buying sprouts is they are very prone to bacterial contamination, like E. coli. The longer they sit on the shelves, [sprouts are] probably likely to be more prone to contamination than if you grow them yourself.”
There appears to be a flaw in your reasoning because of outdated information on sprout food safety. The false assumption at the heart of your statement is that there is the presence, however small, of Salmonella (spp.), Listeria (spp.), or E. Coli in a package of sprouts on the grocery shelf. I am writing to update you on the steps (technological advancements and FDA recommendations) taken since 1998 to make commercially grown sprouts safe for public consumption.
It is absolutely true that there is an inherent problem in growing sprouts safely. In the 1990’s, it was discovered that any field grown seed sprouted in a warm, moist environment is going to grow out exponentially any pathogenic bacteria present on the seed. At that time, few other vegetables or fruits had everbeen linked to a foodborne illness outbreak. (Nowadays, breakouts of various food stuffs occur weekly. Reference the website: USDA-FSIS Recall Cases.) Now, we know that anyproduce can cause foodborne illness if not handled with proper care. With sprout farming, steps had to be developed and performed meticulously every day to insure food safety. As a result of sprouts being under such scrutiny, our industry is at the head of the class in solving and preventing this problem.
These measures have allowed grocery chains to become confident enough to sell sprouts all over the country. They would not take the financial or legal risk, if they were not convinced. You will be happy to know that one chain we work with, Harris Teeter, tests our sprouts on their shelves twice monthly. The FDA, as well as State Departments of Agriculture, also spot test our products. We are proud to say that we’ve passed with flying colors every time!
The sprout industry is small and has had very little voice in the past. Some scary sprouts stories are still perpetuated over the Internet from over 20 years ago. But now, we have organizations such as Sprout Safety Alliance (SSA), Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA), Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which are all available to provide information about proper protocols for growing sprouts safely. Unfortunately, there are still farms NOT following FDA guidelines and the Produce Safety Compliance Rule for the sprout industry.
The protocols that we implement at Sunny Creek Farm make commercially grown sprouts perhaps the safest produce on the shelf. Also, the sprout industry now uses the same Hazardous Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) process, developed by NASA scientists, to guarantee food safety for astronauts. This HACCP process has made it possible for the industry to overcome food safety issues. For Sunny Creek Farm, steps include: Sanitizing seeds before planting, lab testing each growing drum individually, and all product is held to ensure negative results before shipping.
We are a science driven company. Our testing program also includes surfaces and equipment used in or production facility. We follow a five-point cleaning process before andafter any product is handled. In brief, at Sunny Creek, we test the effluent water from every single growing drum individually for Salmonella (spp.), Listeria (spp.), and E. Coli (0157 strains, including the H7), which is implicated in food-borne illnesses). In addition, we swab test environmental surfaces for these same pathogens. The FDA previously recommended 10 samples a month. At Sunny Creek, we go beyond the recommendations taking 80 sample sites a month. In addition, we follow stringent statistical sampling techniques ensuring a varying of sites by area, time of day, days of the week, and food safety zones.
The equipment in our testing arsenal is advanced,cutting-edge technology. Our laboratory employs the 3M Molecular Detection System, a device that utilizes the loop-mediated isothermal amplification method (LAMP).LAMP is recognized throughout the scientific industry as a highly robust and specific deoxyribonucleic acid amplification technique that outshines Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) in many critical arenas.
Additionally, we purchase our seeds from a company that treats the seeds with extended heat and controlled atmospheric changes. This achievesa 1.6 to a 6-log reduction in total bacteria counts. The log reduction varies according to the seed variety.
Sunny Creek Farm has never been associated with an outbreak, a recall, or a single customer complaining about being sick possibly because of eating our sprouts. For your own knowledge, a woman came to our farm and told me that she and her husband had become sick with Salmonellaafter eating alfalfa sprouts, which they grew at home. I have never heard of an outbreak attributed to stand-alone broccoli sprouts.
It might be of interest to know that in 2015 and 2016 the FDA came to film at Sunny Creek’s production facility to create a training film for new inspectors. This film illustrates how a sprout farm should look and function. Our protocols and attention have positioned us as a model for the industry.
Our story runs parallel to the compelling medical science. It seems that both you and I want broccoli sprout science and consumption to reach the largest audience possible. Please help, by giving a more complete and accurate education to the public. I would love to speak with you and show you how the sprouts grown at our farm are clean and healthy, and also, contain higher sulforaphane levels than sprouts usually grown at home. Not as a point of competition with home growers, but to reach, educate, and benefit a larger audience.
Personally, I have been eating one to two ounces of broccoli sprouts daily since the end of 1997, when I was 49 years old. My story of genetics and personal health is exceptional and intriguing. Eating broccoli sprouts have literally saved my life. This gives testament to many of the health benefits you’ve thoroughly described. I’d love to share my story with you.
I invite you to come visit us.
Ed Mills, CEO
Sunny Creek Farm