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You Ask, I Answer: Safety of Bagged Lettuce

1207492016-69277_fullI just bought a bag of lettuce.  On the package it says something like, “Washed Three Times!”

Is it really safe to eat lettuce right out of the bag?  Or should I wash it the same way I wash heads of lettuce when I buy them?

– Cassandra (last name withheld)
New York, NY

Bagged greens are washed in a chlorine solution that removes a significant amount — though not all — bacteria.

That said, the bacteria that may still remain in bagged lettuce are not necessarily ones that can be removed simply by rinsing under cold water.

E.Coli, for example, is only killed by heat.  If a bag of lettuce that you purchased happened to be contamined with E.Coli, rinsing and washing would make absolutely no difference.

It’s perfectly safe to eat bagged lettuce that states it is ready-to-eat.

Remember, too, that as much as news editors love stories about “the bacteria living in your refirgerator…. RIGHT… NOW!”, the human body is exposed to plenty of bacteria every single day that does not get us sick.

Unless you are immunocompromised, elderly, pregnant, or a young child, there is no reason to obsess about eating food that is 100 percent free of all bacteria known to man.



  1. dave said on February 1st, 2010

    We are 90% bacteria! There may be a few rotten apples in the bunch and that’s who we often focus on but let’s show some love for bacteria. :) http://www.ted.com/talks/bonnie_bassler_on_how_bacteria_communicate.html

  2. Andy Bellatti said on February 1st, 2010

    Absolutely! The US in general is particularly germ-phobic. I know some people who Purell their hands about 20 times a day… not as healthy as they may think!

  3. Sally Kuzemchak said on February 1st, 2010

    THANK YOU! The reason I buy prewashed lettuce is so I don’t have to wash it. Who wants to break out the salad spinner every night to rewash salad greens?

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