The latest issue of Consumer Reports gives us the lowdown on just how clean bagged salads are.
“In our samples, all of which were within their use-by date, we did find bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination—in some cases, at rather high levels.
Several industry experts we consulted suggested that for leafy greens, an unacceptable level of total coliforms or enterococcus is 10,000 or more colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) or a comparable estimate. In our tests, 39 percent of samples exceeded that level for total coliforms and 23 percent for enterococcus.”
OK. 39% of the bagged salads they sampled had “unacceptable levels” of fecal contamination. They do not tell us what percentage of the salads had what would be considered acceptable levels. I’d like to think there is only one truly acceptable level– zero– but sounds like if your salad has but 5,000 colony forming units per gram of tiny pieces of crap, you can consider yourself fortunate.
Do I usually wash bagged salads? Yes, ever since the spinach scare a couple years back, but I have certainly been known to dump and serve. Wasn’t that the point of pre-washed salads, to save busy mothers the hassle of cleaning the greens? I think I’ll be washing more thoroughly from now on, assuming I can bring myself to ever eat salad again.
By the way, in addition to washing your greens carefully, Consumer Reports recommends that you consume greens that are as far from their sell-by date as possible. The closer to the sell-by date, the more nasties they found. Clean out those produce drawers!