Bagged salad has revolutionized the way we eat our greens. The convenience of pre-packaged, pre-washed lettuce has led to an increase in its consumption by Americans. However, it seems like everything good and easy comes with some risks. Recent studies have shown that bagged lettuce, even if pre-washed, has a higher chance of contamination by certain chemicals and harmful bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria than the fresh option. Exposure to these types of toxins could occur at any time during harvest or transport. Distributors of packaged greens have implemented various safeguards to prevent such hazards, and due to modern advancements, the risk of becoming sick from these pathogens is relatively low. But it is always a good idea to consider the old-fashioned way, even if it is a bit more work.
Unpackaged lettuce, either from your grocery store or local farmers market, is less likely to carry these dangers. The fresh greens will also typically have more of their natural nutrients because they have not been cut or left to degrade in packages.
Understandably, a full switch to fresh, unpackaged veggies may not be an option for some, but there are steps you can take to ensure that what you and your family are consuming is safe. First and foremost, inspect the lettuce carefully before purchasing. Make sure the leaves do not appear bruised or give off a bad odor. Likewise, anything already in your produce drawer that does not look or smell good should be thrown out. Another safety measure is to wash the lettuce multiple times before serving, even if the package says it’s been washed or even triple-washed. It is also wise to eat the lettuce as soon as possible after opening; the longer it sits, the more likely it is to cultivate bacteria.
Keep eating those veggies! But be wise when choosing where your next serving comes from.