It’s Time To Stop Eating Bagged Salads

It’s Time To Stop Eating Bagged Salads

It pains me to say this, because I’m lazy. But after the umpteenth outbreak of food poisoning from bags of freshly washed greenery, I think it’s time we all stop eating bagged salads.

Photo from VisualHunt.

According to a Emily Bazelon explains, writing at Slate in the aftermath of an earlier E. coli outbreak:

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 doesn’t 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’s present in a particular field.

This is why I’m switching back to preparing my own salads. There’s nothing you can really do if a bag of salad comes in with bacteria on it: washing it will just spread the germs around but still leave most of them alive. (If you want to wash it anyway, a vinegar solution is slightly more effective than plain water.)

A single head of lettuce or bunch of spinach could still be contaminated at its source, but it’s less likely to have been swimming with lettuce from halfway across the country.


  • dont charge me $4 for a head of lettuce one day and $1 the next day, when i can grab a bag at the same price everyday

  • So wait… heads of lettuce can be contaminated too, and the only difference is that bagged lettuce contains leaves from other locations?

    That’s a bit at odds with the previous part of the article.

    If washing with water doesn’t do anything, and proper treatment ruins the lettuce itself (in the example of E. Coli), that would infer that there is in fact little you can do at all.

  • In general, I’m all for fresh salads versus bagged, but there are times the bagged option is better.

    I like making a nice simple soup, I used to use Woolies soup starter packs as the base. Brown off a diced steak/chicken breast, add a couple of liters of water/stock, and I was fed for a couple of days. Simple and effective, and its nice and healthy too. Brown the meat with a chopped chili for a bit of bite, and add a can of diced tomatoes at the end for a changeup, simmers down to a nice stew along the way.

    Back on track. At some point, they seem to have stopped making the starter packs (or have hidden them really well), so I got the ingredients loose. There was no way I could do it for the same price, so in the end stopped making what was a nice lazy weekend soup. Bulk buying vegies doesnt really work for singles, outside of potatoes and onions.

    Happily I found another pack (stir fry from memory) that has all but the potatoes in it for around the same cost, and is already diced, so its just a case of washing and putting in the pot for a close enough result.

  • Knee jerk much? Honestly, if we stop eating all things which might cause food poisoning we’d all die.

    There are so many amazing meals I’ve had when travelling that I never would’ve had. And, if we apply your logic more broadly, I should never cross a road again because I might get hit by a car. (Pretty sure more people get hit by cars annually than get food poisoning from bagged salads).

  • All very well and good to single out the packed products when you’ll probably find the producer splits those ingredients with a wholesale arm for loose/self-service, restaurants, fast food and so on. Is the next article going to suggest to only grow anything one wouldn’t cook to eat?

  • I had the impression all of the recalled salads in Australia came from the same source, so the comments from the Slate article (and probably most US reports) about mixing suppliers wouldn’t apply here.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!