Salad Food Safety

How safe are the salads that you eat? Many of us purchase a bag of lettuce, spinach or other ready-made salad and simply serve it in a bowl without giving a thought whether it might be contaminated. Recently, in the United States, Garden Fresh Foods had a voluntary recall of ready-to-eat salads, slaw and dip products because the products may have been contaminated with Listeria Monocytogenes. Also, Taylor Farms recalled more than 5,000 units of broccoli salad due to potential contamination with the same bacteria a few years ago. The packages may have contained salad dressing that had tested positive for Listeria. I remember one incident where the mother of the bride had left salads and deli meat trays in the trunk of her car overnight the day before the wedding. She removed them from her car at the reception and placed them in the refrigerator. Guests consumed the salads and deli meats for a late night snack. Seventy people at the wedding reception fell ill with Salmonella. She was horrified to think that she had caused their illnesses! Constant refrigeration was required from the moment of purchase instead of leaving the foods in the trunk of her car. What can you do? Many of these outbreaks are due to contaminated food at the source. As a consumer, you cannot wash away bacteria by taking your bagged lettuce and rinsing in the sink. The only way to remove bacteria is by cooking, which many of us don’t do with salads. Purchase salads from an approved source, keep them refrigerated, use clean hands and utensils during preparation and do not store them in the temperature danger zone for longer than 2 hours.

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ENVIRO-FOOD CONSULTING is a foodservice consulting business run by Sally de la Rue Browne, Certified Public Health Inspector and Food Safety Specialist.

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