Packaged Salad Greens Can Contain Bacteria

YONKERS, N.Y., Feb. 3 (UPI) — Laboratory tests of 208 containers of 16 brands of salad greens sold last summer in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York found bacteria, some very high.

The report, published in the March issue of Consumer Reports and available online at, assessed total coliforms and Enterocccous — “indicator organisms” found in the human digestive tract and in the ambient environment — that can signal inadequate sanitation and the presence of disease-causing organisms.

There are no existing federal standards for indicator bacteria in salad greens, but there are standards for these bacteria in milk, beef and drinking water.

Several industry consultants suggest an unacceptable level in leafy greens would be 10,000 or more colony forming units per gram. Thirty-nine percent of samples exceeded this level for total coliforms, and 23 percent for Enterococcus, Consumer Reports says.

The tests did not find E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes or Salmonella — potentially deadly pathogens that can be found in food — although it was not expected given the small sample size, the report says.

Many packages containing spinach, and packages within one to five days of their use-by date, had higher bacterial levels. Packages six to eight days from their use-by date generally fared better, Consumer Reports says.

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