Go for your greens- they’re safe

© Melis82 | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Melis82 | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Today’s headlines about leafy green vegetables might leave you wanting to skip this section of the produce aisles. “Leafy greens top source of food poisoning in U.S.” and “Leafy green vegetables top source of food poisoning: CDC” screamed just a few of the numerous headlines.   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released study results Tuesday showing the leading causes of foodborne illness between the years 1998 and 2008.

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But hang on, before you banish the greens from your menu, look at the dates – the time between 1998 and 2008.  During that period, back in 2006, nobody wanted to touch – literally- spinach. That was the year of the devastating spinach recalls due to tainted greens. I say devastating because people died and the industry was left in tatters.

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It was also what prompted the founding of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, a set of protocols which outlines procedures for safe handling of greens and salad mixes. They cover potential sources of contamination from the fields- pre-harvest and harvest inspections to transportation.
Salad greens from California, according to the CFIA, cannot be imported into Canada unless the vegetables have been harvested and transported according to the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA).    

So go ahead, buy your greens but let this warning be a reminder about safe food handling practices for produce. After all government inspections only go so far.

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Are you a fan of pre-washed greens? Do uoi have any concerns? Please share your thoughts below.

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Another post you might like:

Field of baby greens at Faurot Ranch

Field of baby greens at Faurot Ranch

Food safety protocols with California greens- lessons learned
You have to wonder what changes we are going to see in the meat inspection system in Canada  … read more

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Categories: Food Safety

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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4 Comments on “Go for your greens- they’re safe”

  1. Jennifer
    January 30, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    Funny, I’m eating some prewashed greeens right now and wondered whether I should wash them. I didn’t. Hope theyr’e ok.

    • January 30, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      Thanks for your comment, Jennifer! As long as you check the date and have transported them properly, there’s no need to wash them. I say transported properly because some people may not refrigerate them as they should. The research also shows that washing them may boost the likelihood of food poisoning. Having seen the protocols of safe food handling practices from growing the greens through packaging and transportation firsthand, I am convinced these greens are safe. Enjoy and eat lots!

  2. Cheryl Anne Fenn
    January 30, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    Rosie, how can the consumer washing the pre-washed greens promote food poisoning?
    Thanks.
    Cheryl

    • January 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

      It’s a good question, Cheryl. You wouldn’t think that washing greens could do any harm but in fact, there are a number of areas of concern. The most concerning is cross-contamination that can occur when the greens are washed. Because we eat greens uncooked, if there is cross-contamination, the microbes that cause food poisoning are not killed.

      Two common sources of foodborne microbes can be the kitchen sink and lettuce spinners. Many people fill their sinks with water to wash the greens. And the sinks can be filled with microbes unless they have been disinfected. As well, as lettuce spinners look so clean, many people simply give them a good rinse, instead a wash with hot soapy water, after using them.

      Another source of microbes are unwashed hands. You might not think to wash your hands thoroughly before washing greens but it should be done both before and after handling the greens.

      As you can see, there are indeed surprising possibilities that arise!

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