Have you already checked what is inside your apparently burgeoning spring salad?
If you don’t have a clue, here’s the answer: bagged salads are drenched in chlorine and covered in bacteria! The latest examined case involves the dangerous bacterium Listeria in Dole brand salads. It is so dangerous that it can cause miscarriages or stillborn fetuses in child-bearing women.
Listeriosis is a rare foodborne illness caused by listeria monocytogenes bacteria. In most people, listeriosis is mild and causes symptoms including a high temperature (fever), vomiting and diarrhoea. These symptoms usually pass within three days without the need for treatment.
However, in rare cases, the infection can be more severe and spread to other parts of your body, causing serious complications, such as meningitis.
Common signs of severe listeriosis include a stiff neck, severe headache and tremors. Luckily, the salads have been recalled, but 15 people have been readily hospitalized and one died. If you remember, back in 2012 and 2013 there were severe outbreaks of E.Coli in early spring salads.
According to a government report of 2015, fruits and vegetables (produce) are the No.1 source of Listeria and Salmonella food poisoning, and No.2 is E. coli.
Where else is Listeria found?
Listeria bacteria have been found in a range of chilled “ready-to-eat” foods, which include:
- pre-packed sandwiches
- soft cheeses – such as Brie or Camembert, or others with a similar rind
- soft blue cheese
- cooked sliced meats (cold cuts included)
- smoked salmon
The bacteria may also be passed on through contact with the stools of infected animals or human carriers.
But there is something specific with ‘bagged lettuce’ that makes it worse than your average bagged food. Mrs. Bazelon Emily explains that writing at Slate in the aftermath of an earlier E. coli epidemic: “To produce the bags, processing plants take greens from different farms, put them through three different chlorinated baths, dry and seal them in plastic, and then ship them to a market near you.
The chlorination DOES NOT get rid of E. coli: To do that, you need to heat the leaves and treat them with an organic acid, which would probably make them go limp.
So, by mixing greens from different farms without treating them for contamination, the processing of bagged spinach spreads E. coli once it is present in a particular field.”
The current outburst unambiguously reveals this fact: the Listeria cases were quickly spread over 8 states and 5 Canadian provinces!
Here’s what the Food Poisoning Bulletin stated about the batch of lettuce in question and where it ended up:
“The salads have been known to have been distributed to the following states, but there may have been further distribution to other states. The states that received the salads include, but are not limited to: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The salads were sold at Giant, Kroger, ALDI, Price Chopper, Walmart, Fred Meyer, Schnucks, Meijer, ShopRite, Stop n Shop, Food 4 Less, Jay C, FoodsCo, PriceRite and other stores.”
I don’t know about you, but I find this more than a good reason to switch back to preparing my salads on my own!
There’s nothing you can really do if salad in a bag comes in with a ‘drizzle’ of bacteria on it. Indeed, even washing it with running water will just spread the germs around, but it will still leave most of them “alive and kicking.”
But, if you want to wash it anyway, vinegar solution is slightly more effective than plain water. A bunch of spinach or a single head of lettuce could still be contaminated at their source, but it is less likely to have been “swimming” with lettuce from halfway across the country.
So, don’t get lazy! After the umpteenth outbreak of food poisoning from bags of “freshly washed greenery,” I think it’s time we all stopped eating bagged salads!
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Food Poisoning Bulletin