Listeria leafy greens, Consumer Reports finds potentially deadly bacteria.
Sales of leafy greens continue to rise, especially in ready-to-eat bags. But, Consumer Reports found reasons to take care when you eat greens that are not cooked.
New Consumer Report tests of 284 samples of fresh greens found six samples tainted with Listeria monocytogenes, a potentially deadly bacteria. On the positive side, there was no E.coli, no Salmonella, or other bacteria that cause food-borne illness. Consumer Reports is releasing the new findings to highlight how even a few samples that come back positive for Listeria can put certain people at risk.
Consumer Reports says the tainted samples included red and green leaf lettuce, spinach, and kale — both conventional and organic, packaged and loose.
It’s important to keep in mind that Listeria cannot readily be washed away with water. Food safety experts say washing greens can get rid of dirt and some pesticides but not all bacteria because bacteria can stick to the surface of leaves and get stuck in microscopic crevices.
Consumer Reports scientists also emphasize that not everyone who’s exposed to Listeria gets sick, but some people are more vulnerable, including pregnant women, older adults, infants and young children, and anyone with a compromised immune system. If that’s you, carefully consider whether to eat raw greens at all.
While leafy greens are highly nutritious, and the nutritional benefits for most people far outweigh the potential contamination risks, if you’re in the at-risk category, the safest thing to do is to stick with greens that you can cook.
Experts encourage those who are not in the at-risk category to eat leafy greens soon after you buy them, before bacteria has a chance to multiply.
There’s conflicting advice about whether we should re-wash greens that are labeled pre-washed and ready-to-eat. The food safety folks at the Food and Drug Administration say no.
The FDA says re-washing is unlikely to make greens any cleaner compared to a commercial triple wash process. What’s more, the additional handling could actually increase the chance of cross contamination from your hands, surfaces, or utensils.
While their latest bacteria tests found that only six of the 284 samples had Listeria, Consumer Reports researchers say the study underscores how much the industry still needs to do to improve the safety of leafy greens.