We’ve always been told to eat fresh greens for good health. But a new Consumer Reports article issues word of caution about your favorite leafy greens. Consumer Reports tested 284 samples of fresh greens from major supermarkets and grocery chains around the country and found six samples contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a potentially deadly bacteria. They tested lettuce, spinach and kale from these major supermarket chains. The samples were purchased at several store chains including Acme, Costco, Hannaford and Whole Foods.
Vulnerable Consumers Should Be Careful
Two of these samples were packaged, prewashed greens, spinach and an organic spinach-spring mix. The other four were loose heads of bunches of green kale, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce and spinach. While Consumer Reports’ study represents a snapshot of the market and was not large enough to draw conclusions about the safety of specific brands or stores, the testing emphasizes the fact that the produce industry needs to do more to improve the safety of leafy greens.
Safety experts at Consumer Reports say that these leafy greens are packed with nutrients. But, older adults, young children, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system should be cautious and carefully consider whether to eat raw, leafy greens including lettuce because of the danger posed by listeria bacteria.
Listeria affects young children, older adults, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women, who are at risk of suffering miscarriages or stillbirths if they contract listeriosis. Consumer Reports decided to test leafy greens for harmful bacteria after several outbreaks linked to E. coli in romaine lettuce and other leafy greens over the past few years.
What You Need to Know
Listeria is different from other types of bacteria that cause food poisoning because it is one of the very few bacteria that can actually grow even in refrigerated food. In fact, the cold, moist environments of refrigerators and food-processing facilities offer a great breeding ground for the bacteria. Almost everyone who develops the disease requires hospitalization and about 20 percent die, while less than half a percent of people infected with salmonella die.
Is it possible to eat your favorite leafy greens and still prevent listeria? Experts say the safest move is to stick with leafy greens that you can cook. The greens must be cooked until they are fully wilted. You can also prevent listeria infections by eating the greens soon after you buy them – before the bacteria has had the chance to multiply. Avoiding greens at restaurants may also help protect you. Nearly 85 percent of outbreaks linked to greens stemmed from restaurant meals, according to a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you have been sickened after consuming leafy greens or any other food product, please contact an experienced California food poisoning lawyer who can provide you with more information about pursuing your legal rights.