Saturday, March 6, 2010

To Wash or Not To Wash?

Do you wash bagged lettuces? Perhaps I should step back and ask, do you purchase bagged salads? The only thing I buy in a bag is spinach and that is because that's the only way it comes in my grocery store--and gads! it's expensive.

I don't buy bagged salad for a few reasons. It is not a good value--you can have a lot more lettuce, for less money, if you chop it up yourself. Aesthetically, I want to see and experience what I cook and eat, as close to the way it was grown as possible. I enjoy washing and cutting vegetables. And I always figure that the more people and machines handle my food, the less nutrition it will have and the greater the chance of contamination.

I recently read a couple of articles about bagged salads and how clean they really are, with all their claims of "prewashed" and "triple-washed". The March issue of Consumer Reports, gives results from recent tests, using a sample of 206 packages and 16 brands. While they found no actual pathogens, they did find bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination, sometimes at rather high levels.

Then I saw an article in The Packer, which is a trade magazine for the produce industry, trying to counter CR's findings. I'm not sure what Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications for the United Fresh Produce Association, meant when he said the advice to rinse already washed salad is misguided "because it can increase the risk of cross-contamination."

Meanwhile, I will continue buying lettuce in heads, as long as I can. And I will continue washing all my vegetables, no matter how they are marketed.

Here's my spiffy new salad spinner which replaces an old first generation spinner that was just about worn out and very rickety. This new one makes washing salad fun!

Lettuce + Salad Spinner = True Love


  1. I do buy bag salads, but mostly for convenience. My local grocery store also doesn't have crap for selection of heads of lettuce.

    I recently read in Cooks Illustrated about that cross contamination thing. It turns out (they did all kinds of lab tests) that the average kitchen sink is full of more and worse bacteria than what comes on bagged produce. So when you wash it you're introducing more new bacteria to it than you are washing off.

  2. Now there is another, and very valid, consideration. But they're not talking about my kitchen sink ;)

  3. I only use bagged lettuces/salad when there is no other option. I prefer fresh and in season. Like you, my salad spiinner is always ready for a few whirls.

    This is my first time to your blog. I like it.

  4. I second the love of the salad spinner! Since you gave one to Mom, I have taken over the lettuce washing job because it's way too much fun.

    Also, I love your blog! I've been reading it since Christmas, and I'm planning to try some of your recipes over spring break. Everything you make looks so delicious! :)

  5. Velva, I visited your blog today and had fun. I'll be back.

    Jennifer, Thank you so much! Your visits to my blog and comment mean a lot to me.

  6. I have that same salad spinner, and I do wash all of our salad greens. I recently discovered a way to get the lettuce even dryer. I wash and spin it. Then I take the inner basket out and shake the lettuce over the sink to redistribute it, then I spin it again. It makes a difference!

    (You have a lovely blog, Rocquie!)