Consumer Reports Analysis Finds Bacteria in Packaged Green Salads
Those "prewashed" and "triple-washed" bagged salad greens that are on my salad plate at this very moment may not be as clean as I had hoped.
In a new investigation from the Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, high levels of bacteria commonly linked to poor sanitation and fecal contamination were found in many of the sampled packaged salads.
While Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen, PhD, states that the bacteria did not pose a health risk to the public, their presence indicated a higher likelihood of contamination with rare but potentially deadly pathogens like E. coli and salmonella.
An E. coli outbreak in the fall of 2006 traced to packaged fresh spinach killed three people and hospitalized more than 100.
Although the cause of the contamination was never confirmed, the E. coli was widely believed to have reached the spinach through groundwater that contained the feces of cattle and pigs.
Some Key Findings
Consumer Reports investigators sampled 208 packaged salads, representing 16 brands purchased last summer in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. The salads were sold in either bags or plastic clamshell containers.
- 39% of the samples contained more than 10,000 "most probable number" per gram — a measure of total coliforms, which are bacteria associated with fecal contamination.
- 23% had more than 10,000 colony forming units (CFU) per gram of the bacterium enterococcus.