Not sure if you saw this on the news yesterday, but Dole has recalled their Seven Lettuces salad mix after it tested contaminated with salmonella. It would have been packages with an April 11, 2012 expiration date, UPC code 71430 01057 and Product Codes 0577N089112A and 0577N089112B. 756 cases in all, distributed in 15 states (Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin), according to a release from the company.
I buy the bagged mixes on a regular basis and rinse the lettuce in a salad spinner several times before we eat. It says clearly on the bag that they are "triple washed" but I've just never felt comfortable opening a bag and serving without a good swish in water. It's not only Dole, any manufacturer of produce risks contamination from fecal matter.
Consumer Reports reminds us to buy packages as far from the use-by date as possible and even if the bag says "pre-washed" or "triple-washed," make sure you wash the greens yourself. I've never bought the produce washes, a quick Google search shows that even they have risks associated with their use. Studies show they only minimally reduce microbes or pesticides, not enough to warrant their use.
The US Department of Agriculture says the most reliable method of cleaning our produce is simply running it under fresh water and agitating gently with our hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. Using a brush on hard skinned potatoes, carrots, melons and squash is a good idea while rinsing well under running water. One reminder, don't cut melons without washing the outside or you risk contaminating the inner flesh. That would apply to bananas too, how many times have we allowed our toddlers to have half a banana, never thinking of the possible germs on the peel? They remind us to NEVER use detergent or bleach, both are poisonous.
Homemade solutions of vinegar and water or lemon juice and water, followed up by a good rinse work well in testing too, more on that HERE. One other thing that the USDA recommends is common sense, but it bears repeating. Keeping our produce in the crisper is a good practice since it slows the growth of bacteria.
*They aren't talking about all produce, potatoes should never be refrigerated or the starch turns to sugar.
I'm not giving up salad, but it pays to read the paper and watch the news. We can't be too careful these days...