So, how healthy are pre-packed salads anyway? Are we sacrificing our health for convenience's sake, or is it all just bad press? We take a look at all the pros and cons of this handy bag of greens here.
There is no doubt about it pre-packed salads or bagged salads are easy and convenient to use, allowing us to hit our daily vegetable goals easily. But they have received some bad press, with reports of salmonella, chlorine, and plastic leeching, leaving many questioning their health benefits.
What Causes Contamination?
As leafy greens grow close to the soil, they are more susceptible to contamination. Washing in chlorine is supposed to kill these pathogens, but this is only partly effective.
There are many possible contamination points starting from the farm and then the factory, which include:
- Farmworkers not washing their hands
- Flying birds pooping on crops
- Contamination from manure
- Cut lettuce causes some liquid to be released and causes bacteria to stick to the plastic bag.
- Greens from many farms are washed in one factory, thus increasing the cross-contamination risk.
Are Loose Leaves Better?
While at this point, you may consider opting for bagging your own salad with the loose-leaf varieties that you see at your supermarket or greengrocer.
However, these are not much better as they are likely to have been handled a lot more along the way and, therefore, easily contaminated by dirty fingers or sneezes from other shoppers.
Do They Have Fewer Nutrients?
All produce loses nutrients once harvested, which would leave us to believe that due to all the prep work and packaging, bagged greens may lose even more nutrients.
Generally speaking, most manufacturers say that the turnaround time from harvesting to arriving at your supermarket is within a 24-hour period.
Most manufacturers will use an oxygen-reducing process to maintain the green colour, but as an added benefit, this also slows down the rate at which nutrients such as vitamin C and Folate are lost.
Buying Tips to Minimise the Risk
- Store all lettuce and salad greens in a cold environment between 1-40C 35-400F
- Buy bagged salad greens for a long time before the use-by-date expires.
- Use and eat well before the use-by- date, which limits the time that the bacteria can multiply.
Consider soaking in a vinegar bath, as this removes some of the pesticides.
Thoroughly rinse under cold running water.
Dry completely using a salad spinner.
Use soon after preparing to avoid contamination and spoilage.