Is It Safe to Buy Bagged Lettuce?
Do you buy pre-cut and pre-washed fresh produce in the market? What do you think about the safety of buying greens after seeing some recalls of bagged lettuce?
What’s the best thing to do when shopping in the produce aisle? Grab the bagged lettuce or the one that is au naturel?
My advice is to just choose according to your personal liking, however, you need to wash all the veggies that you buy, whether au naturel or bagged.
Dr. Ken Spaeth from Manhasset, New York’s North Shore University Hospital said it’s not necessary to think too much about the safety of greens and distinguishing between bagged and au naturel. What consumers should do is first wash the vegetables before cooking or eating.
NYU Langne Medical Center’s Dr. Phlip Tierno, the director of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology, said that he personally chooses bagged lettuce since it has been pre-washed, but he washes it again before eating.
Listeria – Reason for the Recall
The recalls on bagged lettuce were because of a listeria contamination. Listeria is a species of bacteria that is typically found in the environment. It can survive and grow in the cool temperature inside a refrigerator.
That means that listeria reproduces and multiplies in number.
So, listeria can stay alive long enough to contaminate the food people eat. The bacteria may be transferred to other produce especially when the person who prepares the food does not wash his hands very often.
Listeria is naturally found in the intestines of humans, however, the number is not high enough to cause sickness. The problem arises when listeria thrives and multiplies in your refrigerator so that when you eat that bag of lettuce, you get a high number of pathogens in your system causing a nasty illness.
What is good about bagged lettuce is that it is triple washed, with chlorine on the first wash, and the supermarket customers aren’t touching it as much as loose lettuce. So most likely bagged lettuce has lesser bacterial count than loose lettuce.
Dr. Tierno said that 90 percent of the bacteria may be eliminated by triple washing lettuce, however, there may be still be a lot of bacteria left.
Food Safety Tips in Handling Raw Produce
The recommendation of the U.S. Food and Drug administration is to wash your hands using soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds. This must be done before and after handling fresh produce.
Be sure to thoroughly clean the surfaces used during food preparation, including cutting boards and countertops.
Then, don’t forget to wash the raw produce. You could also add a few drops of lemon or chlorine to the water to sanitize the produce.
The kitchen sink and drain is a breeding ground for bacteria, so don’t ever put your fresh produce there.
Washing does not remove all the contamination but it’s a step that significantly reduces bacterial contamination.
Produce sold in the market is generally safe. Once the produce is in our house, it is our responsibility to make sure that we maintain cleanliness to serve safe food.
Photo credits: By MyName (Mahlum) – Own work, Public Domain, Wikimedia.org