"Bacteria can flourish in the warm, humid conditions in which sprouts are grown. Investigators have sometimes found that the seeds used to grow sprouts are contaminated with bad bacteria, like E. coli or salmonella. Once those seeds start growing, the bacteria can easily spread.
This next section was to deal with bean sprouts in particular. I thought it might be interesting to list some recipes in which bean sprouts are used.
It is a reflection on the state of my culinary and gastronomic ignorance that when I came across this article on bean sprouts nutrition information from the Livestrong.com website.
"When 'bean sprout' is mentioned, many immediately think of the mung sprouts used in traditional Asian cuisine."
I have had bean sprouts in Chinese food, but I did not know they were known as "mung sprouts." You may safely assume that E. Coli or not, something called "mung" is not likely to pass my lips ever again.
It turns out that bean sprouts are really the baby form of beans. Who knew?
The article lists kidney, navy, pinto, lentil, soy, and the aforementioned mung beans.
But, other sprouts, according to that NY Times report, are vegetables of interest "including broccoli, peas, chickpeas, garlic, lentils, and radishes."
Bean sprouts are a good source of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C most of the eight B vitamins, folate, thiamine, as well as riboflavin, niacin. They are also rich sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
In any event, your mom's admonition to wash your hands before you cook and eat; and wash vegetables before you put them on the salad plate is probably still the best defense against E. Coli.