Bagged salads: safe or not?
Consumers Union tested a couple of hundred samples of bagged salads, organic and not. The results? Nearly 40% contained levels of coliform bacteria higher than safety standards. Coliforms indicate fecal contamination. This is disgusting to think about but does not make anyone sick.
So the Consumers Union results could be reassuring or not, depending on whether you are an optimist or pessimist. Yes, the coliform levels were high, but none of the samples contained toxic forms of E. coli, such as O157:H7.
Still, the high frequency suggests that bagged salads need either much better washing or much better maintenance of the cold chain (so the bacteria don’t grow), or both. If nothing else, the report is a good reason why it’s important to give bagged salads a thorough washing before you eat them or serve them to anyone.
Consumers Union makes a big point of the need to get food safety legislation moving. The House passed its version of a bill at the end of last July. The Senate hasn’t budged on its bill. In the meantime, we still have major national outbreaks and recalls.
The most recent? 225 people in 44 states plus the District of Columbia ill from Salmonella because they ate salami coated with contaminated black pepper. We still don’t have a food safety system that works. We need one fast.