(USA TODAY) -- Sprouts may sound like health food, but food safety experts say they're one of the riskier things around when it comes to contamination. For that reason, the Kroger Co. announced Friday is will no longer sell them because of their "potential food safety risk."
Kroger will discontinue sprouts on Monday.
"It's great news," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Between 1990 and 2010, more than 2,500 Americans were sickened by contaminated sprouts in at least 46 outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella was identified in 37 of the 46 outbreaks, with E. coli associated with eight and Listeria with one.
"After a thorough, science-based review, we have decided to voluntarily discontinue selling fresh sprouts," Payton Pruett, Kroger's vice president of food safety, said in a statement.
"Sprouts present a unique challenge because pathogens may reside inside of the seeds where they cannot be reached by the currently available processing interventions," the statement said." Out of an abundance of caution, the Kroger Family of Stores will no longer sell fresh sprouts or procure other foods that are produced on the same equipment as sprouts."
The Cincinnati-based chain operates 2,425 supermarkets in 31 states under names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralph's and Smith's.
Sprouts are especially prone to possible contamination because "unlike other fresh produce, seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow. These conditions are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli," the Food and Drug Administration says on its FoodSafe.gov site.