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Volume III
December 23, 2011

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

How Safe is Your Bagged Salad?

By Patty Liston

Have you ever wondered how clean the lettuce is in those very convenient bagged salads? I have and I know that other of my friends have questioned them as well.

According to an article in The Conscious Consumer it seems that the words "pre-washed" on salad packaging may not tell the whole story. Lori Bongiorno, an environmental journalist, wrote that Ready Pac Foods recently recalled more than 5,000 cases of bagged greens in 15 states because E.coli bacteria was found during testing. She continued to write, "Consumer Reports" tests found bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation... in many of the packaged greens it tested last year".

Given the research, should the consumer stop purchasing the bagged salad? Not necessarily. However, there are several precautions that each of us may take to ensure we are eating the healthiest greens possible.

•  Always wash salad greens. Regardless of what the bag says about being double and triple washed, not all bacteria is removed. Open the bags and wash the greens in plain water. Use a salad spinner to remove excess water, or roll the leaves in paper towels to blot. Then store for freshness in a zip-lock baggie.

•  Wash whole lettuce that is not pre - packaged. Use the above technique for whole heads of lettuce, and other leafy greens that are on a stalk.

•  Buy packaged greens as far from their expiration date as possible. In the Consumer Reports tests, higher bacteria levels were found if their "use-by" date was 1-5 days away. Packages that were 6-8 days away from expiration were better.

•  Choose fresh greens over packaged when you can. Bagging changes the environment in ways that might promote the growth of bacteria. A fresh, whole head of lettuce is usually less expensive than a bag of lettuce too.

Buying local may offer extra protection since greens tend to be fresher so their bacteria haven't had as long an opportunity to multiply, However, in the Consumer Reports tests, it didn't make a difference if greens were organic or if the greens were packaged in plastic clamshells or bags.

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