363 outbreaks (an outbreak is two or more persons becoming ill from the same product), over 13,000 illnesses reported.
Does this surprise you? Leafy greens can be very good for you. They can also make you sick!
No, you can’t use that as an excuse not to stick to your diet.
There are other lettuce risks as well. Handlers may not properly clean the pre-washed salad mixes, leaving harmful germs (yes, it has happened). A truck not cold enough (in other words, the refrigerator on the truck may not be at 41°F, 5°C, during the entire trip from processor to the store) to transport salads is a truck where germs could start to grow. Since salads aren't cooked, you could ingest germs just by opening the package and eating. This is not to scare you away from salad; it's to let you know that it isn't foolproof.
So how do you make sure it’s safe? Start with smart buying. Check both the dates and the quality of the packaging. If buying lettuces that are not considered ready to eat, make sure to look for good heads. To learn more about shopping for produce, click here.
Next, make sure to wash all lettuces properly before you eat them. The best practice is to wash everything. Those lettuces in the bag should also be washed, just to be sure. Don’t just dump it into your salad bowl. Studies are showing that washing everything is still safest. We cover details on washing leafy greens here.
Finally, don’t let salads sit out too long. If germs, like E-coli, are present (and you must assume they are), they may be able to start growing while the greens sit out on the buffet table all evening. If your salad sits out longer than two hours, discard the food. Check out more about food safety at picnics here, and what to do with leftovers here.
Now that you know the risks...
Wendy, a friend of mine, put together some great salad recipes, that I've tried myself, My Mama's Best Recipes. Guaranteed to be tasty... just keep food safety in mind!