Header graphic for print
Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Will Bagged Leafy Greens be Safe?

I was reading San Diego Union-Tribune writer, Diane Lindquist’s article: Keeping Greens Green – Industry-run program to improve food safety will begin tomorrow, about the hopeful use of the California  Marketing Agreement as a way to prevent the next E. coli O157:H7 outbreak tied to California Leafy Greens, when I also spotted the following article by Richard Gray, Science Correspondent, of the UK Telegraph:

One in 10 salads has poisonous bacteria

Food safety experts are calling for stricter production controls on ready-to-eat salads after tests revealed that many contain bacteria, which can cause potentially deadly food poisoning.

A report compiled by the government’s Health Protection Agency (HPA), found that one in 10 pre-packaged salads containing meat or seafood was contaminated with the listeria bacteria. Evidence of E. coli and salmonella was found in some bags of salad.

The HPA report, which involved testing more than 2,600 ready-to-eat salads, concluded that the control of bacteria in food manufacturing and in shops was essential to minimize the potential for hazardous food contamination.

Food poisoning due to contaminated salad is still rare. The HPA has recorded two notable outbreaks in the past two years, although only the most serious cases that result in hospitalization will be reported.

David Barney, from the Fresh Prepared Salad Producers Group, which represents the industry in the UK, said that the washing and preparation procedures used by producers removed far more bacteria than consumers could in their homes.

The UK pre-packed salad market is worth more than £300 million a year.

The Salinas Californian –  Leafy greens audits begin Monday

Some legislators and consumer and labor advocates say the agreement is unlikely to offer consumers greater protection, however.

“Monday is about more of the same,” said state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, who has so far failed in his attempts to pass legislation regulating the leafy greens industry. “Monday is cross-your-fingers day and hope nothing goes wrong.”

If anything, Florez said, the onset of the marketing agreement should remind consumers to protect themselves, because the industry continues to use a voluntary, self-policing system.

“I think consumers should be very afraid,” he said. “I think we want to make sure consumers know … that they need to protect themselves — wash your spinach, use good handling practices.”