Food Prep

Why pre-washed lettuce and spinach still needs to be washed

If you encountered someone who didn’t wash produce that they’d purchased at the supermarket before eating it, you’d probably ask them if they had a death wish; supermarket produce is notoriously dirty, with a recent study by Reuse This Bag showing that traditional grocery store produce contains 746 times more bacteria than a car steering wheel.

But what about the bagged lettuce, which usually boasts of being “triple washed”? Isn’t that OK to just eat straight out of the bag? Well, maybe not.

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When your bagged lettuce is washed in the production facility, it’s typically submerged in a solution that contains a little bit of bleach, which is supposed to kill off all the bacteria. But a study by UC Riverside found that up to 90 percent of the bacteria on bagged spinach remains there during this washing process, because the texture of spinach, with its peaks and valleys, makes for a perfect bacteria breeding ground. After it’s rinsed with the bleach solution, the surviving bacteria can grow and infect other leaves as well.

While the study focused specifically on baby spinach, it calls into some question the safety of any pre-washed salad greens. In short, that “triple washing” doesn’t actually accomplish too much. So before eating bagged spinach, dump it out into a large, water-filled bowl and stir it around with your hand before drying it thoroughly in a salad spinner. Once it's clean, consider making one of these 50 salads perfect for any season.