A new survey in the March edition of Consumer Reports suggests that consumers should wash packaged greens or salad even if the packaging states that it has been pre-washed.
The consumer advocacy group used an independent lab to test 208 bags of salad from 16 brands sold in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. It discovered that 39 percent contained high levels of coliforms, a potential indicator of fecal contamination. The study did not find disease-causing bacteria,such as E.Coli, listeria or salmonella.
Even out of that small sample size, Consumer Reports discovered several trends. The type of packaging, clamshell or plastic bag, doesn't appear to impact bacteria levels. Bagged spinach and salads that were within one to five days of their use-by-date were more likely to have unacceptable levels of bacteria.
As a result, Consumer Reports recommends that consumers purchase bagged salad as far from its expiration date as possible, wash bagged salad and avoid putting it in contact with raw meat -- all of which are general food safety guidelines that might apply to every fresh ingredient in one's dinner. Washing salad can't remove the bacteria, but it will help to remove dirt and particulate matter.
The Consumers Union, the nonprofit that publishes Consumer Reports, is advocating for a produce safety bill called the Food Safety Modernization Act. It would strengthen food safety requirements and regulate bacteria levels in produce. The study was commissioned in connection with that campaign.
[Image via Flickr: Bruce Turner]