What the “Ready-to-Eat” Label Really Means
Those labels indicate that the salad has already been through at least one wash cycle with a sanitizing solution before packaging. This produce-friendly, people-safe solution often contains hydrogen peroxide or chlorine to kill bacteria already on the food and keep them from multiplying.
But if you open the package and start handling it yourself, the greens can come in contact with organisms on your skin, countertops, or sink, Godwin says. That can increase your risk of ingesting bacteria or germsthat lead to illness.
In fact, you’re better off not touching the salad at all, she explains. Just pour it directly out of the bag and into your bowl.
What You Need to Know About Bagged Lettuce and Listeria
This advice holds true even amid the recent news reports of Listeria—a bacterial infection that can cause fever, muscle aches and diarrhea—linked to salad mixes from Dole and other brands.
These outbreaks are extremely rare since produce workers are required to follow strict protocols to avoid contamination. In fact, there were just 55 illnesses linked to Listeria outbreaks overall in 2014, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data available.
Plus, a simple rinse is unlikely to remove microbes anyway.
“Some bacteria form a film that helps them cling to the produce so you’d actually need to rub or scrub each leaf to remove the film,” Godwin says. That means a salad spinner won’t do any good either.
So skip the wash, and know that the hard work has been done for you. The only thing left to do is eat that lettuce, preferably in one of these 4 Protein-Packed Chopped Salads.