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 Bagged lettuce or bulk? Experts offer food safety advice 
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Post Bagged lettuce or bulk? Experts offer food safety advice
By JoNel Aleccia, NBC News

A recall this week of 8,000 cases of Fresh Express Hearts of Romaine salad marks the sixth time since April that the nation’s top producers of bagged lettuce have pulled products because of worries about food safety.

Listeria was the problem that forced Fresh Express officials to recall certain 10-ounce bags of the greens, the same potentially dangerous bug that led Dole Fresh Vegetables to withdraw bagged salads four times since spring, most recently on Aug. 22.

No illnesses have been tied to the voluntary withdrawals and company press releases describe each one as an “isolated incident” unlikely to harm human health.

But for consumers roaming the produce aisles at the grocery store, each new recall raises the question: How safe is my salad?

Food safety experts say they hear all the time from shoppers wondering which is better, bagged lettuce or the loose variety.

“We call it faith-based food safety,” says Doug Powell, a professor of food safety of Kansas State University. “And most of it is faith-based.”


She encourages consumers to take steps to avoid compromising bagged lettuce. Buy only bags kept very cold in the grocery store and pay attention to sell-by dates. Once you’ve got it home, open the bag and dump it directly into a clean bowl.

“Don’t stick your own hands in there,” she said.

She also urges home cooks not to re-wash bagged greens because of the possibility of cross-contamination with other bacteria already in the kitchen.

If you want to use bulk lettuce, make sure to clean it correctly, Bruhn said. First, wash your hands and also the sink with hot soapy water.

Then, break off each lettuce leaf individually, rinse it under cold running water while rubbing gently. Dry in a salad spinner or with paper towels, not with cloth towels, which may transmit bacteria.

“Keep in mind, you only get about 90 percent (of the pathogens) off,” she said. “Ninety percent sounds like a lot to a lay person, but to a microbiologist, it’s hardly anything. You can’t get it all off.”

Read more here:

:hmm Interesting. I've sworn off bagged lettuce because of all the recalls. Perhaps it is time to rethink this.

I used to buy bagged lettuce not only because of the convenience but also the variety of lettuces. It's tough to buy that much bulk lettuce for two people.

An interesting note in the article above deals with organically grown famer's market lettuces sitting in water with no microbiological practices in place.

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:20 am
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