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In the summer of 2015, the Oldways Whole Grains Council launched a project to explore standards and definitions for sprouted grains. This is at heart a research project, the outcome of which has not been pre-determined. Our plan is to gather input from those with expertise in sprouted grains, and facilitate a useful consensus process.

Why are we doing this? No, we’re not planning on creating a “sprouted Stamp” or any other kind of certification for sprouted products. Our goal is education…
  • of millers and sprouters, so they will know accepted standards for sprouting grains safely

  • of manufacturers, so they can write clear specs for purchasing sprouted grains

  • of consumers, so they will know what “sprouted” should mean on a package

We reached out to an initial group of companies known to be working with sprouted grains, and held a kickoff conference call on August 6, 2015. The aim of this first stage was to think of questions that we might want to answer during the exploratory process; this first step was accurately described in an article in FoodNavigator the following week. Since then, other interested individuals have joined our Sprouted Grains Working Group (SGWG). If you are interested in joining the SGWG effort, please contact Cynthia Harriman ( But please note: this is a WORKING group. We expect everyone to actively contribute information, so please don’t tell us simply that “you’d like to be kept in the loop.”

August 2015 Launch of the SGWG

Throughout the autumn of 2015, members of the group worked by email in subcommittees, gathering information in four separate areas, to answer the preliminary questions below (or any others raised by the subcommittees). 

Subcommittee 1: Sprout Length / Percent of Grain Sprouted

This subcommittee is exploring the possibilities of using sprout length and percent of grain sprouted as one way of defining sprouted grains. The initial questions are:

  1. Should there be a minimum sprout length for a grain to count as a sprouted grain?
  2. If so, what should that minimum be and how should it be measured/validated?
  3. Should there be a maximum sprout length for a grain to count as a sprouted grain?
  4. If so, what should that maximum be and how should it be measured/validated?
  5. What percent of the grains in a batch should be sprouted in order for the batch of grain overall to be considered sprouted?
  6. What size sample is appropriate?
  7. How should the percent of grain sprouted be measured/validated?
  8. Is there any way to differentiate between batches that have achieved this percentage by attempting to sprout the entire batch – and batches where sprouted grains have been mixed intentionally with unsprouted grains? Does it matter?
  9. What other questions does your group think are important?

Subcommittee 2: Lab tests

This subcommittee is exploring possible lab tests that can be used to determine if a grain is truly sprouted. The initial questions are:

  1. What lab test or combination of tests can be used to validate that a grain has truly sprouted?
  2. Can a Perten Falling Number test be used? If so, what value or range of values would indicate that a grain has sprouted?
  3. Can an RVA (Rapid ViscoAnalyzer) test be used? If so, what value or range of values would indicate that a grain has sprouted?
  4. Would any other tests be useful?

Subcommittee 3: Nutrient Tests

This subcommittee is exploring which nutrient values change when grains sprout, and how nutrient tests could be used to determine if a grain is truly sprouted. The initial questions are:

  1. What are the key nutrient changes that take place when grains are sprouted? How can they be measured/validated?
  2. Are they the same for all grains? If there is variation, is there a subset of nutrient changes that are common to all sprouted grains? 
  3. Do the nutrient changes vary by time and temperature of sprouting, or by wet mash approach vs dry approach? If so, how? What guidelines for time of sprouting, moisture, and heat are recommended to facilitate certain nutrient changes?
  4. Are changes best measured as an absolute value – or as a percent change from original unsprouted values?
  5. Can/should nutrient values be used to determine when a grain has gone “beyond sprouted” – to a point where nutrient changes are no longer beneficial (i.e., is there a bell curve in any of these nutrient changes?)
  6. Bonus: While the goal of this subcommittee is to document nutrient tests that define when a grain has been truly sprouted, it would also be useful for future consumer education efforts if this subcommittee could document any research showing the health benefits of these changes.

Subcommittee 4: Microbial/Safety Tests and Procedures

This subcommittee is exploring the issue of sprouting grains safely, and which tests could be used to establish safety standards. The initial questions are:

  1. What are the microbes of concern that should be tested for when sprouting grains?
  2. For each microbe of concern, what are safe and unsafe ranges?
  3. What tests best measure the levels of each specific microbe of concern?
  4. What guidelines for moisture, heat, and duration during the sprouting process would be helpful in preventing proliferation of microbes of concern?

Common Questions for All Four Subcommittees

As they gather answers to their own topic-specific questions above, all subcommittees will also make sure to stack their answers up against this additional set of key questions:

  1. Will this be true for all grains, or are different standards needed for different grains?
  2. Can this be applied to sprouted grains both in their “wet mash” state and when they have been dried?
  3. For which of the following groups will this standard be useful:
    • Ingredient suppliers – millers and others sprouting grains.
    • Manufacturers – those seeking to specify & purchase sprouted grains.
    • Researchers – those studying the benefits of sprouted grains.
    • Consumers – will this be useful in educating consumers?

Do you have expertise in any of the above areas that you would like to contribute to our Sprouted Grains Definitions and Standards project? Email your information to the appropriate subcommittee chair. Include your name, title and company and a phone number where we can reach you.

#1 — Sprout Length & Percent — Chair Cynthia Harriman, Oldways
#2 — Lab Tests — Chair Crista Sorenson, Central Milling [has since left Central Milling]
#3 — Nutrient Tests — Chair Kelly Toups, Oldways
#4 — Microbes/Safety — Chair Cynthia Harriman, Oldways

For general questions about this project you are also welcome to contact Cynthia Harriman ( or 617-896-4820).

October 20, 2015 Update

Thanks to everyone involved (now up to 30 people!) for your Round 1 input on the questions above. We’ve consolidated the initial information from each of our four subcommittees and sent this to everyone, asking them to review the input and reflect on three questions by November 20:

1. Where do you see possibilities of consensus?

2. In areas where there doesn’t seem to be consensus, what additional research / information must be gathered to move toward consensus?

3. Are there additional issues that come to mind (unintended consequences or whatever) that you think should be discussed now that you’ve seen this first round — including the ideas for additional questions already listed?

This is an ongoing process with no set schedule, as we explore key questions.

January 26, 2016 update 

Now that we have completed phase one – generating questions and gathering preliminary answers to get an overview of the scope of the issues – we held a call to concentrate on one small part of the puzzle: How Falling Number tests and RVA tests can be used to verify sprouted wheat, barley, or rye (gluten grains). Our January 26 call ended up focusing on three areas: Falling Number/RVA (many limitations were discussed); Moisture Measurement (one participant submitted an indepth description of how this can work); and Enzyme Activity tests. Information and call log were sent out to all members of the group.

June 30, 2016 update 

Our group continues to grow, now including more than 40 people from 23 companies or organizations and one university. As we continue our work, it’s more and more evident that different companies follow a wide range of practices in sprouting grains and in documenting that they have done so. To stimulate the next round of discussion, we sent everyone a detailed paper from one SGWG member company documenting a moisture-based definition for defining the beginning and end of the sprouting process. We asked for feedback on this approach over the summer, and received extensive, thoughtful input from several group members.

Commenters complimented the paper as showing a “very technical and excellent understanding of sprouting.” However, they suggested that moisture content should be part of a definition of sprouted grains, not the main tool, since differentiating between soaking and sprouting could be difficult without visible evidence of a sprout. In most cases, commenters believed, Falling Number is more useful as a definitive test of sprouting.

February 14, 2017 update

We now have 43 people from 25 companies working with us. Our discussion last year indicated it was unlikely that any one definition of a sprouted grain would fit all grains and all circumstances. So rather than attempt to narrow down our work, we decided to expand it, and simply concentrate on learning more about all methods for verifying sprouted grains. And we decided to do so through individual discussions and to anonymously aggregate the results, to lessen any concerns about proprietary information.

After a bit of a hiatus in mid-2016 while the Oldways Whole Grains Council launched its new website and ran a major conference focusing on whole grains in foodservice, we started back to work. We held one-on-one interviews with a number of SGWG participants who had been most detailed in their earlier comments, asking them to share more specifics on the actual methods and metrics they use to guage when their grains have sprouted. We then used the resulting input to detail five different ways that different segments of the SGWG were ensuring that their grains had indeed sprouted. We aggregated this information into a document listing the 5 different methods, and circulated it to members of the group for their input.

Deadline for comments is March 24, 2017, after which we will collate comments, refine our February 14 document, and decide on next steps.