3 Things You Should Know About Pre-Washed Salad Mixes

Salad Mix

Most Americans can do better on vegetable consumption, especially leafy greens. Smart marketers understood 20 years ago that washing and cutting leafy greens is a hassle and a billion dollar industry of prewashed salad mixes was born. We received a letter from Arbella, a Fooducate community member who asked:

I recently discovered that most prewashed greens are washing in chemicals…is there any way to know which and might that information be on your site?

1. First you need to know, bacteria  adhere to a greater extent to cut than to uncut fresh greens, thus a need for a disinfectant.

2. The most common washing fluid used by packaging companies is water, with a small amount of chlorine mixed in. This is the same chemical used in swimming pools and it helps kill off bacteria. Even organic salad mixes use chlorine. Although chlorine is a toxic gas, when dissolved in water in small amounts there is virtually no risk to human health.

3. A few years ago, some companies started testing new disinfectants using organic acids, for example lactic acid (found in milk) and peracetic acid. Fresh Express (owned by Chiquita) is using this mix, called FreshRinse, in its products.

What to do at the supermarket:

It really comes down to a question of price and convenience. All formats of produce are highly recommended – we need to eat our leafy greens. If buying bagged greens will get you eating more, this consideration should trump all others.

Our preferred choice: buy the greens and wash them at home, tear them up and use a salad spinner to dry them up. Takes 2 minutes longer, but it’s much cheaper.

  • Karen Southgate

    Ah yes! The convenience of washed greens…. The other thing that I don’t like about these kind of greens is the plastic container that they come in! Waste that just isn’t necessary! Thanks for sharing! Karen@NourishWithKaren

  • Monika

    This is terrible news. For a family with a small budget like ours it’s not cheaper at all to buy the different kind of greens separately. .. We love greens but they are very expensive, we insist on buying them organic. We would have to go for non organic greens to be able to buy a few different kinds.We get an organic Olivia’s greens mix that has arugula, spinach, beet greens, lettuce,kale, red lettuce, and several more kinds of greens that I don’t even remember and can’t find the right mix on hannaford’s page, for about 5,99. A head of organic lettuce at the cheapest grocery store around here is 2,99, organic spinach is rarely less than 5 $, that’s already 8 $, so if we buy a third bag, let’s say kale, doing a price check – organic is 2,99, = 11 $ ! , and it’s still only 3 kinds of greens, let’s say that each organic green would cost 2,99. To have a mix of 10 greens we would have to spend almost 30 dollars on just greens. And not only we can’t afford that but it would rot in the fridge. This is most upsetting news, we won’t be able to enjoy a mix of different nutrients.

    • Joan_RD_CDE

      Couple of suggestions, though not all are organic.:
      1. Grow some of your own.
      2. Check local produce stores. I buy items in bulk at Produce Junction, a chain store.
      3. Some of these stores will deliver. I’ve had a couple of deals from Groupon.
      4. Frozen veg are often less costly than fresh.
      5. The dollar store may have frozen veg too.
      6. Look for farmers markets in your area.

      • Monika

        Thank you for the replies. I live in a rural area and I do use farmer’s markets sometimes, I also grow my own which doesn’t work out too well now that I have a little one to chase after, and although my tomatoes and beets always grew well, my lettuce is eaten by bugs before I get to it. :)
        I checked all my options for fresh vegetables, otherwise I wouldn’t have posted. I buy the cheapest possible best options to feed my family organic. Yes, frozen vegetables we have a lot of in the freezer as they indeed are cheaper, but you can’t really prepare a fresh crunchy salad with frozen vegs can you ;) . Dollar store never had any vegetables, at least in my area. And as for another comment, that if I buy more greens separately, yes I will pay more but I will have more, I wrote clearly in my post that first of all I don’t have that kind of budget and 2nd of all they would spoil by the time we ate them because we tried that too, evenhaving 2 salads a day. :-) Even though I didn’t find anything in the comments that I haven’t tried before, thank you for trying. :D I just wanted to stress that it’s not cheaper buying them separately, the article suggests it is.
        I will continue buying Olivia’s organic mix as it’s the best option.

    • Donna

      Yes it might cost more if you buy three greens separately but generally you’d get more volume for your dollar this way. If you really enjoy your 10 mix then buy it some of the time. Cuts down on packaging and any chemicals you might be consuming. Plus you’d tryly maintain a variety of salads by mixing it up. No pun intended ;0)

    • trixietime

      I don’t understand why this is “terrible news.” You get more chlorine in your drinking water or swimming in a pool. It’s not toxic for washing greens. The suggestion in the blog is to use whichever product allows you to eat more greens, whether bagged or not. And clearly the bagged greens are a good choice for some families. The blog post isn’t saying you shouldn’t eat bagged greens.

  • Sam

    Can you clarify the lactic acid (found in milk) comment? I am trying to be vegan and my understanding is that lactose, not lactic acid, is milk based. I’m confused!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Lactic acid for use in industry is usually produced by a fermentation of cornstarch or beets. Not from milk.

    • J.B. Abell

      Lactic acid is a by-product of anaerobic respiration by bacteria. It is in milk when it sits around for a while because bacteria build up. I assume that for the purposes the article is talking about, this is produced by other means (many types of anaerobes can do this) since it would essentially be a waste of milk and too expensive to perform on a mass level just to wash lettuce.

  • Leanne

    Around here, the only organic lettuce available is pre-cut, especially in the off season. I really need to start a garden, but don’t have the time or space…

  • Tara Rice

    More than two minutes, but you’re right! Also, my salad spinner broke. :(

  • http://www.knowfoodnow.com Know Food Now

    I like the Tersano Lotus food sanitizer that uses tap water and oxygen to create ozone infused water that is better than bleach.


  • RedRedMane

    Howcome nobody ever mentions PESTICIDES!???!! You know,… the stuff on your bagged collard greens that smells almost like fkn BUTANE GAS!!!! ?

  • pat

    I wash all of my greens even those that say pre-washed, but I only use plain water and salt in one of the washes. I never given much thought about bacteria, even after the scare a few years ago. I hope that this question does not sound ridiculous, but I am african american and grew up with my grandmother eating chitterlings. Yes chitterlings. But one thing that she would do, even back then was put a bit of cholorine bleach in her chitterlings. She said that it was only a dab and she would then swish and wash and clean them through several washes. Is this the same cholorine you are talking about washing the vegetables in, just in another form?

    • gopher652003

      Pretty much. Small amounts of chlorine bleach mixed with water are often used in restaurants as a “food safe” sanitizer. If you get the mixture just right, you don’t even have to rinse off your counters and cutting boards with water afterward, because small amounts of diluted chlorine aren’t dangerous to humans, but they’re deadly to most types of dangerous foodborne bacteria.

  • truthBtold

    Tsunami Wash is also a new method used by FreshStart Foods Inc. This method leaves no chemical smell whatsoever that you would otherwise get with a chlorine wash. Ever smell swimming pools? Yeah, like that, but in your salad.