If you’ve had food poisoning before, you’ll do anything to avoid having it again. So here’s a potentially helpful tip: Be extra vigilant with bagged salad to keep the bad bugs at bay. At least according to new research.
Though bagged salad is designed to make our lives easier, it comes with an added risk: A team of University of Leicester microbiologists, who recently looked into prepackaged produce, says that despite its part of a healthy diet, salad is the second most common cause of foodborne illness, sometimes carrying deadly pathogens like salmonella and E coli. To help people stay healthy, these researchers specifically identified the risk factors to look out for.
One of the most alarming statistics, according to the Guardian, is that the juices from broken or damaged leaves in bags of mixed salad or spinach can make the risk of harmful bacteria 2,400 times greater. “Salad leaves are cut during harvesting and we found that even microlitres of the juices (less than 1/200th of a teaspoon) which leach from the cut ends of the leaves enabled salmonella to grow in water, even when it was refrigerated,” lead researcher Dr. Primrose Freestone was quoted as saying. “These juices also helped the salmonella to attach itself to the salad leaves so strongly that vigorous washing could not remove the bacteria, and even enabled the pathogen to attach to the salad bag container.”
Another interesting finding was that simply opening a bag of salad increased its food poisoning risk: The team discovered that naturally present bacteria grew much faster once a bag was breached, even if you continued to keep it refrigerated. As a result, the microbiologists advised eating opened salad as quickly as possible.
But this warning isn’t designed to keep you off bagged salad forever. “Reputable supermarkets and food manufacturers take great pains to assure the quality of their sources of supply and that all reasonable steps are taken to minimize the chances of contamination at source and during production,” the University of Surrey’s Martin Adams, a professor of food microbiology not associated with the study, told the Guardian. “This study addresses the situation when salmonella is already present in the product and would therefore already be a risk to the health of the consumer.”
So there you have it: The number one way to prevent food poisoning is to stop buying your bagged salad at Shady Sam’s Secondhand Spinach Emporium.