Another Slight Against Salad Greens: Fecal Contamination


Four years after bagged spinach was linked to an E. coli outbreak, Consumer Reports has dug up some more discomforting discoveries about packaged salad greens: They may be lightly seasoned with fecal coliforms.

For the story, which appears in Consumer Reports‘ March issue, researchers tested 208 containers of salad greens representing 16 brands bought at stores in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. Although no pathogens, such as E. coli or salmonella, were found, the tests did show distressingly high levels of bacteria indicating fecal contamination or, at the very least, poor sanitation.

The federal government has imposed limits on what constitutes an acceptable level of these bacteria in raw meat, milk, some processed foods, and water. No limits exist for produce, so Consumer Reports polled industry experts, who defined an unacceptable level of total coliforms or enterococcus as 10,000 or more colony-forming units per gram.

Consumer Reports‘ testing found that 23 percent of the salad greens sampled exceeded that level for enterococcus, while 39 percent contained more than that level for total coliforms.

In other words, when salad greens are advertised as ‘pre-washed’ or ‘triple-washed,’ wash them again. Thoroughly.

[Via Diner’s Journal]


Archive Highlights