Seniors May Want To Reconsider Bagged Salad

Food contaminated with listeria may not appear or smell spoiled but can make you sick. Click To TweetIncluding plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is important in maintaining a healthy diet and seniors trying to eat well may turn to packaged salads as an easy way to get their greens.  But recent recalls on Dole and PC Organics brand prepackaged chopped salads due to a listeriosis outbreak may have many re-thinking how they purchase leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach.  Listeria is a bacteria that is found in food, soil, plants and sewage.

According to Health Canada, food contaminated with listeria monocytogenes may not appear or smell spoiled but can make you sick with symptoms including nausea, fever, sore muscles, headache and a stiff neck.  In severe cases, infection can cause death.   Older adults and those with a compromised immune system or chronic medical condition are at an increased risk for infection.

To help reduce the risk of listeria and other bacteria contamination such as salmonella and E. coli, all leafy greens should be thoroughly washed.  Although less convenient, whole head lettuce may be a safer option than prepackaged, prewashed greens.

Research conducted at the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that bacteria can enter the harvesting cuts of greens and travel into the leaf.  Bagged greens go through more processing steps, allowing for an increased opportunity for contamination.   Mixed greens in packaged salads also allow for contamination from one crop such as spinach to transfer to other types of greens.  In addition, the environment inside bags storing greens may encourage the growth of bacteria.

By purchasing a mature, whole head of lettuce and thoroughly washing it, keeping it refrigerated  and using it within a few days of purchasing, the risk of contamination can be reduced.   The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also recommends cleaning all kitchen surfaces and the refrigerator regularly to prevent the spread of bacteria from one surface to another.  For more information about listeria visit the CDC website at .