spinach in a bag may pose health risk
That ready to eat prewashed and bagged spinach may not be as healthy for
you as you might think.
Researchers have found that some of these ready to eat salad makings contain
a significant number of bacteria, many of which are resistant to common
I confess I've been thrilled with some of these products, buying 3-pound
bags of washed spinach at Costco on a regular basis. The ease of
preparation, is irresistible. Making a salad with these fixings
is far easier and faster. That's why I find this report so disturbing.
Sonia Walia of Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan tested
the assumption that "ready-to-eat means clean" and free of bacteria.
She and her colleagues tested this assumption on several bags of Dole
Ready-To Eat Baby Spinach.
They pureed the spinach in a sterile mixer and then spread the mixture
on Petri dishes containing nutrients that encourage bacteria to grow.
Within days they had identified, Staphylococcus, Enterobacter, and Escherichia
colonies, all of which can infect people. They then challenged these bacteria
with common antibiotics such as ampicillin and ciprofloxacin. The
researchers were alarmed to discover that 95 percent of the colonies tested
were resistant to two or more antibiotics.
The one time food scientist in me is also alarmed. My assumption
is that something in the processing, some sterilization or cleaning technique
either in processing the spinach or cleaning the machinery, is selectively
breeding these resistant bacteria.
How big a deal is this? At this point I've seen no reports of food
borne illness linked to these salad products. It makes sense to
be cautious nevertheless.
People who are immune-compromised, people undergoing chemotherapy, people
taking immune suppressing drugs or who have illnesses that lower resistance
to infection should not consume ready-to-eat spinach and by extension
other salads. Cooking the spinach will render it safe to eat. For
the rest of us, don't trust the prewashed label. Wash these greens
thoroughly before eating.
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