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Bacteria and Fecal Contaminants Found in Pre-Washed, Bagged Salad Mixes

Gross Alert! Fecal Bacteria Found in Bagged Salad Greens

When it comes to fruits and veggies, I usually don't buy prewashed, precut, preanything. It seems too gimmicky and way lazy on my part not to slice my own apples. I make an exception for salad greens. I know it's hypocritical of me, but salad greens are pretty dirty, and I hate having to break out my cumbersome salad spinner. So yeah, I give in and buy the prewashed bags of mixed greens from the grocery store. So much for my laziness — it looks like the salad spinner is coming out anyway.

Even prewashed, nay, triple-washed bags of salad mixes aren't so clean after all. Consumer Reports tested 208 bags of salad greens from 16 different brands and found that 39 percent of the samples had traces of fecal contamination. Researchers also found that mixes containing spinach had higher levels of bacteria and that greens tested at least six days before their "use by" date had lower levels of contaminants. Luckily, no traces of deadly pathogens like E. coli or salmonella were found. But still, the thought of cow poo on my baby arugula is totally gross.

To find out how to protect yourself,


Though researchers say that the levels of bacteria found didn't pose a threat, it is indicative of poor sanitation where the salad greens are processed. This definitely could be the makings of another E. coli outbreak, like the one that was linked to bagged spinach in 2006. That outbreak killed three people and hospitalized 100 more.

What I am taking away from this is to always wash my salad greens — prewashed or not. If you don't have a salad spinner, it's a good investment. However, you can wash your greens in a bowl too. Just cut off the root of the lettuce head and let the leaves soak in a large bowl of water for at least a minute while the dirt sinks to the bottom of the bowl. Shake each leaf, dry with a towel, and you're ready to go.

Image Source: Getty
turistachef turistachef 7 years
Not sure why everyone is so grossed out. There is no way to really ensure eating clean and "safe foods" except for growing and cleaning your own vegetables and washing them in filtered water. I suppose if we become too finicky about food, we won't even be able to enjoy a meal at a 5 star restaurant that is handled by who knows who in the kitchen. I'd grow a garden, but I live in the city. Even if I did, there will still be bugs, worms and "icky stuff" in my garden, too. I'm too much of a foodie to worry about it, but I do what I can to ensure clean edible food.
hoganshero hoganshero 7 years
I am so grossed out. If you want it done right..I guess you just have to do it yourself.
Pre washed my left foot! I ALWAYS wash my salad and veggies. I wash them even if I'm not going to eat the skin, like with melons and squash because I know that when I cut through the outside the knife is going to slice into the inside. I never get sick when I prepare my own food because I wash everything to death.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
Most yummy thing were in the ground at some point in its life. :p I prefer to buy my own salads and wash it myself. I'm super picky about dirt (I dislike the crunch it makes), and prefer to wash it all down myself.
starbucks2 starbucks2 7 years
Haha, running, that's what I thought. Like duh! Stop freaking out, people, that little bit of dirt is not going to kill you!
runningesq runningesq 7 years
You do know where salad comes from, right ? The ground. Where there are bugs. And fecal matter.
Allytta Allytta 7 years
a lo of times i find that most kinds of salads come only in pre-packaged bags. you can't buy them without the packaging.
Angelica Angelica 7 years
Oh lord.
snapperdoodle snapperdoodle 7 years
There was an episode of Doctor Oz a few weeks ago about food contamination. They showed how produce (not bagged) goes through 20 different hands before it reaches yours! They showed a woman actually climbing, with her feet, onto a display of fruit to grab some from the top of the pile. Ewww! Bagged or not, you have to wash all your produce like crazy when you get it home. Here's a link to the article on the show's website if anyone's interested:
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
Spectra - that is what I was wondering about. If washing the pre-packaged lettuce 3 times before it goes in the bag doesn't remove all the fecal bacteria, then why would people assume that the produce they wash at home is free of it? I don't think the study should be interpreted to mean that pre-packaged salad is abnormally dirty, but rather that all produce, even if pre-washed, is going to have various kinds of foreign particles on it.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
Newsflash: fecal bacteria is pretty much everywhere, even on your produce. Manure/compost usually has E. coli and enterococcus spp., etc. in it and it makes great fertilizer for your food. Even if you wash it off, there still is going to be a little bit on there. If you want to try to remove as much as possible, spray your veggies with a mixture of water and baking soda and then rinse them off really well.
benheld benheld 7 years
Yuck! No, I haven't washed my own bags at all. ewww... I'm changing this right now. No more bagged salad stuffs for me!
briannaNicole briannaNicole 7 years
I've read a ton of articles like this lately but all of them fail to mention the source of the fecal matter. I hope this is not a giant eruption over GASP! this really the first time people have thought about how their food is grown? It's funny that most of these articles read like a giant panic attack with what seems like a forgettable disclaimer near the end explaining there's actually NO e.coli and no one has gotten sick.
Beauty Beauty 7 years
I'm like filmgirl81. I wash bagged salad anyway.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
Yeah, I broke down and washed my prewashed salad greens. So annoying. I don't know why, but I hate washing lettuce.
onlysourcherry onlysourcherry 7 years
once i was in the grocery store and saw a living ladybug crawling around inside a prewashed salad box. I gave the box to the grocery store clerk.
filmgirl81 filmgirl81 7 years
I'm so paranoid, I wash pre-washed salad anyway. There are worse kinds of feces than cow feces, but this is still gross
Pistil Pistil 7 years
I once found a fly in my bagged salad, totally made me lose my appetite. Even though I am of the mind that a little dirt isn't going to kill me, this is still pretty gross.
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