The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said that pregnant women and young children should only eat raw or "ready-to-eat" bean sprouts if they are thoroughly cooked, following a Salmonella outbreak last year.

One person died and a further 240 cases of Salmonella Bareilly were reported between August and December 2010. All of the cases were described as "indistinguishable" from each other - indicating that they came from a common source.

The findings were announced at the Health Protection Agency's annual conference, where delegates were told of the investigation into the source of the outbreak.

Dr Joe Kearney, an HPA regional director, and chair of the multi-agency outbreak control team, said: "The fact that we discovered a probable association with bean sprouts so early in the investigation enabled our colleagues at the FSA to issue timely advice to the catering industry. This advice was repeated and strengthened as the evidence linking contaminated bean sprouts to the outbreak became stronger. At the same time, we gave important information to the public through the news media.

"Our key message was and continues to be that bean sprouts are safe to eat provided that they are washed and cooked through until they are piping hot, unless they are clearly labelled as ready-to-eat. Raw and undercooked bean sprouts can potentially pose a risk to health."

Pregnant women, young children, older people and those with impaired immune systems should take extra care, the HPA has said, and only eat well-cooked and properly prepared bean sprouts.

Article Last Updated: 13/09/2011