Many people have been asking recently how safe it is to eat leafy greens due to the latest news about them. Leafy greens are key ingredients for a healthy diet, and a food safety issue with such an important part of a balanced meal is virtually impossible to ignore. (Related Topics: Florida Food Handlers Certificates, Florida Food Handlers Certification)
Recently, several cases of E. coli-related illness were confirmed in various cities of the Canadian East Coast – including Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick – and several U.S. states in which romaine lettuce harvested in California traced back to the outbreak.
A few weeks ago, kale was also identified as a source of Listeria contamination, which prompted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) to recall Eat Smart’s salad kits, Salad Shake Ups – Sweet Kale. Although there have been no reported illnesses associated with eating this product, the recall was issued.
Leafy greens are not necessarily dangerous or unsafe. Nevertheless, cooking vegetables –and meat– can kill harmful bacteria, and although many leafy greens are eaten raw, which makes them especially vulnerable, there are still a few precautions you can take.
Listeria can grow in the cold, even inside of the refrigerator, but it’s killed by cooking and pasteurization. Eating contaminated fresh produce, deli meats, refrigerated pâté, undercooked meat, poultry and fish, refrigerated smoked seafood, and unpasteurized dairy products including soft and semi-soft cheeses (e.g. Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheese) can all cause Listeria. The symptoms show up a few hours after eating contaminated food or as long as one month afterward and include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea.
Listeria infection can be rather serious for pregnant women and their babies, as well as people with weakened immune systems.
Also, remember that cleaning pre-washed greens at home can actually increase the likelihood of food-borne illness. Additional handling could introduce bacteria from your hands, the cutting board, the sink or nearby raw foods.
If packaged salad greens are not labeled “prewashed” or “ready to eat”, wash them thoroughly under cold running water just before you intend to use them. Washing leafy greens before storing could promote bacterial growth and enhance spoilage.
Don’t buy prepackaged greens that contain spoiled leaves. Damage to greens can stimulate bacteria to grow and multiply, especially when they’re stored in packages. If you buy whole heads of lettuce or other greens, discard the outer leaves and wash the rest.
To minimize your risk of food poisoning from leafy greens and other foods, practice safe food-handling and preparation at home.