US: Bagged greens: To wash or not to wash

Posted: January 30th, 2012 - 11:00pm
Source: Los Angeles Times

The salad chefs I know fall into two camps: Some serve pre-washed bagged leafy greens straight from the bag. The others insist on washing them first, even though the bag label promises that the contents are "triple-washed."
Over the years, I've ignored those labels too. I typically dumped bagged greens in the salad spinner, added plenty of water and spun strenuously. After writing too many stories about food recalls, I vowed that family and friends were not going to swallow E. coli along with their spring mix and lemon vinaigrette.
Now it seems the straight-from-the-bag camp may have it right after all. By re-washing our greens, we may be making our salads dirtier, according to a bevy of food safety experts.
Even our best-kept kitchens can teem with all sorts of harmful pathogens, on cutting boards and in salad spinners, on knives that just sliced raw chicken, on damp, well-used cloth towels. "In brief, consumers don't wash up very well and may contaminate produce due to dirty hands and dirty sink," emailed Christine M. Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at UC Davis. That's especially a problem with salad greens, since they never get cooked.
Are merchants trying to pacify both camps, the re-washers and the non-washers?
I began asking other experts about their own salad-making rituals. None of the people I spoke to washed pre-washed bagged salads.
"Don't wash it," responded Douglas Powell, publisher of and professor of food safety at Kansas State University.
"Out of the bag," said Robert Buchanan, professor and director of the Center for Food Safety and Security Systems at the University of Maryland.
But some, like microbiology professor Michael Doyle at the University of Georgia, forego bagged greens altogether, just to be safe. "We eat a lot of vegetables," Doyle said. "We eat a lot of lettuce. We buy heads and peel off the outer layers."


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Date Published: 
Los Angeles Times
Deborah Schoch
Source URL:,0,3794171.story
Source Title: 
Los Angeles Times
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