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4 Reasons to Avoid Precut Produce

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4 Reasons to Avoid Precut Produce

At the end of a long day, there may be no worse sight than a mountain of vegetables and raw ingredients just waiting for the dinner fairy to turn them into a tasty home-cooked meal. Who hasn’t wished for a magical kitchen assistant to do all the chopping, slicing, dicing, and prep work that makes cooking feel like a chore? Obviously a lot of us have, because today’s supermarket aisles are full of ingredients that have already been cut for our convenience: precut stalks of celery just waiting for a scoop of peanut butter; pre-boiled eggs; bagged salads that require almost no effort at all; pre-diced onions that save us sweat and tears.

According to the United Fresh Produce Association, sales of these convenience foods have skyrocketed in the past two decades, with more and more customers choosing them in order to make food preparation easier and faster. When you’re shopping at the supermarket, they may seem like the best culinary development since the deep fryer, but the next time you’re tempted to grab that pre-bagged spinach or pre-grated Parmesan, think twice about the hidden costs–literal and figurative–that accompany them.

 

1) They have a bigger carbon footprint.
Much is made these days about food-miles, which refers to the distance food travels from farm to table, and how it affects carbon emissions. Pre-prepared ingredients require significantly larger amounts of energy for packing, processing, and transportation. After harvest, mass-market precut produce is either washed in a chlorine solution or irradiated in order to eradicate microbes and bacteria, and then put into packaging. Once it’s been packaged, the produce requires refrigeration during transportation, during display, and after purchase. Not only do mass-market precut vegetables generate a bigger carbon footprint because of transportation and cleaning, but their packaging alone adds to landfills and contributes to pollution.

Some grocery stores offer their own lines of precut fruits and veggies that are produced in-house. Although these foods don’t need the extended refrigeration or incur the transportation costs of the mass-market varieties, they still require extra packaging, extra handling, cleansing, and extra labor, all of which mean higher costs for the environment than if you did the slicing and dicing yourself.

 

 

2) They’re not necessarily cleaner.
We all love the fantasy of opening a bag of spinach and dumping it right into the salad bowl, but back in August 2006, consumers discovered that this particular fantasy was a great way to get E. coli. In August 2007, it became a great way to get salmonella (the most common foodborne pathogen). Over the past few years, dozens of vegetable recalls have been initiated in order to protect consumers from these pathogens as well as others, such as listeria. It’s not spinach itself that’s to blame; although bagged and precut vegetables have ostensibly already been washed and treated, they’re actually more likely to harbor pathogens that can cause foodborne illness, especially if the vegetables are not kept properly refrigerated through every step of the production process.

The problem arises from both handling and surface area; the more a food item is handled and processed, the more likely it is that the item will come into contact with germs. The more food is cut or sliced, the more surface area it has, meaning germs can cling to more places. Although the risk of contracting any foodborne illness is relatively small, pre-grated cheese, precut salad, and pre-chopped onions are all riskier than the whole, unadulterated versions of the same foods. The FDA recommends washing all precut and pre-bagged produce just as you would wash whole foods, so buying them preprepared doesn’t really save as much time as you’d think.

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118 comments

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4:42PM PST on Dec 7, 2013

Thanks.

11:45AM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

Thanks for sharing. I always try to buy fresh vegetables and fruit from local market but sometimes I get lazy and buy the wrong stuff.

11:40AM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

I have never bought precut vegetables.... I get my vegetables fresh from the local market and cut them myself. Thanks for the article, sharing!

5:19AM PDT on Aug 1, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

1:22PM PDT on May 21, 2013

I have never really got why people buy those products as they loose all their goodness as soon as they are cut.

3:27AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

I agree with Daisy (my issue is more with time/effort and fatique than pain, but the impact is the same). As for cost, you should really learn how to shop, and actually you are contributing to the idea that fruits and vegitables are expensive - just last week I bought spinnach for 50 cents a bag (and I rinsed it even though it was washed). Buying what's on sale means you will probably buy what's in season and also give you the opportunity to try new things. Secondly, you worry about the quality of the food when the nutrional quality of foods in the shop are substantially below what they were even 40 years ago, Pre-slice apples, I wouldn't even buy apples today as they don't taste right (some organics are okay).

12:52AM PDT on Mar 30, 2013

Thank You :)

7:26AM PDT on Mar 23, 2013

thanks

2:53AM PDT on Mar 14, 2013

Thanks

5:41AM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

I buy fresh veggies and cut them myself. Anything in the plastic bags has preservatives. I wash all my fruits and veggies before eating.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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