It feels like some kind of carnivore orchestrated backlash: All those fruits and vegetables you’ve been told for so long are good for you — well — they’re really the bearers of food borne illnesses that can make you sick! Ugh. It’s enough to make anyone think twice about eating spinach, tomatoes, peanuts and whatever other delicious, vitamin-packed bounty makes the 11:00 news.
Don’t panic, there is no new food scare that I know of. I’m just having trouble shaking the last few, and it’s affecting my relationship with “prewashed” salad.
In our house this stuff is a meal saver. Preparing dinner is an awkward dance of throwing together a meal while also keeping watch over our toddler who is relentless in her desire to explore fun household items like electrical sockets. So no matter how over- or under- done, mushed or unsightly the main course is, throw a side of beautifully rich green spinach salad, a couple cherry tomatoes, and a baby carrot or two and it looks amazing.
But how safe is “prewashed” salad in light of all the food scares? I went to the website of our local prewashed organic salad empire Earthbound Farms to see if they had any warnings about the need to wash the prewashed salad. They didn’t. These are the folks who actually invented the prewashed salad 25 years or so ago, and they were involved in a spinach scare a few years ago.
Probably as a result of those scares, the site gives detailed information about food safety. It explains that their produce is kept in an “unbroken cold chain” that includes washing with chilled chlorinated water. Apparently the cold and the chlorine are the keys to keeping bacteria and pathogens at bay. Earthbound Farms also has all kinds of sorting and testing procedures in place to keep the products sanitary.
While contamination in production does happen, it’s important to remember that it can also happen at home. This is especially true because we break the cold chain when we buy the salad, run some errands, and finally make it home hours later to put it in the fridge. And because many of us are a bit distracted by toddlers or other chaotic circumstances, we may not totally be on top of our personal food safety procedures. Here’s a refresher to keep your prewashed salad safe.
- Only buy prewashed salad if it’s cold and you can get it to your refrigerator (or stomach) in a short period of time
- Check the date and don’t buy or use if it’s past the date or has rotten leaves or a weird smell
- Wash your hands before you open the bag or tub of salad
- Keep your cutting boards clean and sanitized by routinely scrubbing and spraying with vinegar after use
- Do not prepare your salad on the same surface that you used to prepare raw meat. Never let the salad (or any other food you plan to eat raw) come into contact with raw meat juices