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Friday, February 01, 2013

Wash Your Veggies

At Restating the Obvious, Harry points to an article that notes that "[a]bout 1 in 5 illnesses were linked to leafy green vegetables — more than any other type of food."

I work with lettuce growers and they're horrified that somewhere downstream from them someone packages their lettuce and puts "already washed, ready to eat" on the package.  They think it's idiotic that anyone would eat any vegetable without rewashing it first.

I've seen one of the packing plants and it's amazingly sterile.  The people are wearing sterilized gloves, lab jackets, boots, and hair nets and everything (including hands and lettuce) is continually washed down with a chlorine solution.

The problem is that one little bacteria that somehow survives the chlorine onslaught and makes it in the package becomes a lot of bacteria after a few days en-route to the market, then your home, and then finally the dinner table.  For the vast majority of people nearly all the time, no problem, but still, it's a good idea to rewash vegetables before you eat them.


erp said...

Restating the obvious indeed.

Bret said...


Harry Eagar said...

When did you first visit that lettuce factory?

The biosafety regulations have gone into effect only recently. I wrote about it extensively when I was a reporter. Small operators have a tough time complying.

If you want to rail against the tyranny of gummint regulation, these regs would be a good place to start.

I, too, have visited produce processing stations. Not all, even with the regs, are so clean as your lettuce factory.

I have, by the way, never seen an 'already washed/ready to eat' label on food. Must be one of those market-driven things, I guess.

Bret said...

I visited the lettuce processing plant 18 months ago.

"Ready to eat" is certainly a market driven thing.

erp said...

We just got back from grocery shopping in uber upscale Connecticut where there's always a plethora of very good looking as well as very expensive pre-washed and pre-cut fresh veggies including all kinds of lettuce. Many more varieties of pre-washed than we see in our decidedly downscale market at home in Florida.

It's very convenient even if you still need to rinse it off.

Harry Eagar said...

In the Degas era, all of Paris' leafy vegetables were grown under irrigation, using the undiluted flow from the pissoirs.

This did not seem to make Paris more dangerous than, say, London.

Knowledge would seem to be a valuable thing.

Bret said...

Where the lettuce is grown (usually dirt which is by definition "dirty") is of course different from where it's packaged and requires different levels of sanitation.

Harry Eagar said...

My point. If it is assumed that food was exposed to nature, then the efficient approach would be to educate everyone to wash it. (But that may not have been all that common in France. On the other hand, The Parisians who were dirty did not eat salad.)

Idiot-proofing the food is an expensive, inefficient approach.

erp said...

Harry, interesting that you think that idiot-proofing food is inefficient, yet you promote idiot proofing aka regulating everything else in our lives.

Could it be that meddling by your cohort has gotten so out-of-control that even you can see danger.

Groceries with salad bars and other prepared take out foods will soon be required to post explicit information on a host of things like calories ... of course this will result in another convenience lost to consumers as few markets have chemists, nutritionists, etc. on their staffs with full labs to analyze and compare their lasagna and baked ziti to whatever arbitrary standard the Won conjures up.

Harry Eagar said...

Bet you $10,000 your prediction never comes true. Let's set Jan, as 'soon'

erp said...

No need. It's already in the works. Just check your sources to find out when the new regs go into effect.

I'm sorry I don't have time to look for the link because among all the other travails, we just had a major blizzard, 2-3 feet of snow and are stranded in the house.

Power was off all last night and didn't come back on until about an hour ago. We couldn't even get across the street to neighbors with a generator because the regular snow plows couldn't negotiate the heavy deep snow and we don't have snow shoes.

It was 53 deg. in the house and will probably take a couple more hours to get the temp. up to civilized standards.