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.