Packaged salads harbor indicator bacteria
For its analysis, Consumer Reports had an outside lab test 208 containers of 16 brands of salad greens, sold in plastic clamshells or bags, bought last summer from stores in
- 39% of samples exceeded 10,000 cfu/g (or another similar measure) for total coliforms, and 23% for Enterococcus;
- 2% of samples exceeded French, and 5% of samples Brazilian, standards for fecal coliform bacteria;
- Many packages containing spinach, including packages that were one to five days from their use-by date, had higher bacterial levels. Packages six to eight days from their use-by dates generally fared better;
- Whether the greens came in a clamshell or bag, included baby greens, or were organic made no difference in bacteria levels;
- Brands for which there were more than four samples, including national brands, plus regional and store brands, had at least one package with relatively high levels of total coliforms or Enterococcus.