Unwashed Bagged Greens Aren’t Safe
Unwashed bagged greens aren’t safe… or are they?
I’ve always wondered if I should be washing greens I buy from the produce section that say “pre-washed”, and even “triple-washed!” Should I worry about the safety of eating those greens if I don’t wash them again? After all, there have been a lot of recalls of bagged salad greens in the past months. So it kind of makes me wonder, “Is it really safe to eat those greens without washing them another time?”
I was glad to see a piece in the Nutrition Action Health Letter about washing greens that the labels says have already been washed.
It turns out that Food and Drug Administration produce-safety expert Michelle Smith says it is unnecessary to rewash bagged salad greens. If it says on the label the greens have already been washed, you’re good to go.
Of course, her following statement doesn’t entirely fill me with warm fuzzy feelings either:
“Rewashing bagged salad greens that were washed before being packaged is very unlikely to create a safer salad. Once disease-causing bacteria become attached to leafy greens, it’s difficult to remove them by rinsing with water. The greater likelihood is that you’ll make a safe product unsafe because of cross-contamination with bacteria from your fingers, cutting boards, countertops, or the sink.”
Okay, that part doesn’t exactly make me think everything is safe, but I don’t think you are ever going to be able to have a 100% safe food supply. So the alternatives are:
- Buy pre-washed bagged greens, and take your chances there might on the off-chance be some bacteria on them.
- Forego buying any bagged greens.
- Grown you own greens.
If you don’t want to grow your own, and you like the convenience of bagged greens, then you buy your greens and you take your chances. Adding fresh greens to your diet probably outweighs the risk they might be contaminated with some bacteria.
Of course, if the bag of greens does NOT say it has been washed, then of course, you absolutely should wash the greens or any other raw food before eating the food.
Spoiled Greens Are A Different Ballgame
If you’ve ever forgot about a bag of greens and left it in the veggie crisper of your fridge too long, you’ve seen the slimy mess that is the end result.
Even with fairly fresh bags of greens, there are sometimes a few leaves, especially on the bottom, that are kind of icky. These should NOT be eaten, but immediately discarded.
Final Recommendations on Pre-Washed Greens
Don’t rewash bagged washed greens like spinach is the essence of the recommendations of Michelle Smith from the Food and Drug Administration on pre-washed greens. As for spoilage,
“I would look carefully at the leaves from the top of the bag as I pull them out. If they are starting to spoil, I would discard the entrie bag. If the bulk of the lettuce appears sound and there are a few spoiled leaves at the bottom of the bag, I misght use what’s at the top and discard the slimy leaves and any leaves they may have touched.” (From Nutrition Action Health Letter, March 2013)
So there you have it… it’s not necessary to wash those greens again if they’ve been washed before bagging, and in fact can do more harm than good!
How To Wash Greens Video. . .
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