How to Make Sure Your Sprouted Seeds Are Safe to Eat

When reading about sprouting seeds at home, the threats of bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella and listeria are often mentioned and of course you can become very sick by eating contaminated food. Whilst this an issue we need to take seriously, safe food-handling techniques can prevent problems.

Safe Seeds

Buy your seeds, beans and legume for sprouting from a trusted source, choose a vendor who specializes in quality ‘seeds for sprouting’. Most reputable sprouting seed vendors make sure their seeds are tested for bacteria by a third-party independent laboratory (the lab is not owned by the farmer, supplier, or vendor). The seeds will be noted as bacteria free. If you buy seeds from a regular food store, there is no guarantee they have been tested for bacteria because it is assumed the seeds will be cooked, not eaten raw.

Keep Your Sprouting Equipment Clean

Safe food-handling practices are very important. Wash all sprouting equipment in warm, soapy water and let it air dry. Mason jars and some plastic sprouters (check the manufacturer’s instructions) can be washed in the dishwasher. Make sure your work surfaces and utensils are clean and dry.

Wash Your hands

Before touching your seeds or sprouting equipment make sure your hands are clean by washing them for 20 seconds or more in warm, soapy water, then rinsing and drying them.

Rinsing and Soaking Your Seeds

For seeds that require soaking, use fresh, cold, potable water, and drain the water away when the soaking is finished. For each rinse, use fresh, cold, potable water and drain the water away.

Do not reuse the soaking or rinsing water for any other food preparation. Do not drink or consume the soaking or rinsing water. This is because it may contain the by-products of the chemical reactions that are part of the sprouting process or may have bacteria in it.

It’s OK to use the water on your houseplants or garden.

Sanitize Your Seeds (Optional)

The FDA recommends sanitizing your seeds with household bleach. Mix 1 oz of bleach with 10 oz of water. Soak the seeds in this mix for 5 minutes, then rinse them three times with fresh water. After this, begin the sprouting process.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Don’t touch raw meat or dairy products during the sprouting process. Keep sprouting equipment and seeds in separate areas away from raw meat/dairy. Use a separate cutting board and knives to prepare sprouts for salads and other meals.

Using Stackable Tray Sprouters Safely

Some types of plastic or terracotta sprouters have trays that stack one on top of another, allowing water to drip from one tray onto a tray below. This may cause issues because the water from a top tray may contain the by-products of the chemical reactions of the sprouting process, while the stacked trays limit air circulation, increasing the potential for bacterial growth.

The safest way to use this type of sprouter is to rinse and drain each tray individually, make sure each tray has drained completely before restacking the sprouter.

Happy Spouting!

If you follow the steps above, your seeds, beans and legume sprouts will be safe to eat. As always, if you have any questions, send an email to

Your friend in sprouting,

Sprout Lady Rita.

Information credit” ‘Homegrown Sprouts’ by Rita Galchus. Published by Quarry Books.