In lieu of this weekend’s festivities I thought this warning would be apropos, just in case you had planned on making a nice big healthy salad for the buffet. If you’re buying bagged salads and prepacked lettuces, LISTEN UP: you might be getting more than you bargained for. A new investigation came out yesterday conducted by Consumer Reports Magazine, in which random prepackaged lettuces, all within their use-by date including those labeled “washed” and “triple washed,” were tested for cleanliness.
Though neither E. coli nor salmonella were found, “bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination” were, at an alarming rate of 39% of the those tested. How can this happen? There are federal limits on the amount of “indicator” bacteria that can be legally found in water, milk, raw meats, and processed foods, sadly there is no such standard for produce.
“Results varied widely among samples. Whether the greens came in a clamshell or bag, included were “baby” greens and organic, it made no difference.” (In this case, there went that theory about organic being better.)
I couldn’t have said it better than this, quoted from TreeHugger.com:
“To clarify, just because a sample contains coliform bacteria, this does not mean there is literally feces in your salad–nor does it mean that this bacteria necessarily grew in crap. But high levels of such indicator bacterias like coliforms and enterococcus mean that there’s a higher chance there was some fecal contamination or poor sanitation practices.”
Though you may not get sick from said contamination, I’d say it’s time to think twice about buying those convenient bagged lettuces.
The best thing you can do in my opinion? Buy heads of lettuce, preferably locally farmed and organic and wash them well OR better yet, grow your own lettuce. It really couldn’t be easier — if I can manage it you certainly can! But if you just can’t stay away from the bagged salads, Consumer Reports suggests buying packages as far from their use-by date as you can find and be sure to wash the greens yourself even if the bag says “prewashed” or “triple-washed.” Rinsing won’t remove all bacteria but may remove residual soil. Good luck with that.