A Good Review on How Produce is Commercially Cleaned
October 19, 2006
Ready-to-eat bags of greens may advertise that they have been "thoroughly" or "triple" washed, but that does not guarantee that they are free of bacteria.
And washing it again at home may even add to the risk, as bacteria on hands, utensils or in the sink can contaminate the produce.
There is no complete "kill step" for microbes on leafy greens, because any procedure that would destroy all of the microbes would also damage the vegetables themselves.
The standard process is washing the greens with chlorinated water, but this does not kill 100 percent of microbes, and is often done incorrectly. Between 1998 and 2004, FDA inspection revealed that at as many as a third of domestic and foreign produce farms and packing sheds, the washing was not being performed adequately.
Federal regulations currently require food processors to follow practices that minimize contamination. However, the government only issues very general guidelines on what this entails, so companies have wide play to interpret the meaning.