Despite years of regulation, don’t trust your greens just yet.
In the past 35 years, the United States has seen a substantial increase in fresh, leafy green vegetables being contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and the increase isn’t entirely because more people are eating more salads.
A report presented at the 2008 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases found that since 1973, there have been 10,421 food outbreaks, some 500 of which came from leafy-green vegetables. Most were contaminated with norovirus, followed by salmonella and E. coli. More than 60 percent of the outbreaks involved contamination by germs spread by humans.
From 1986 to 1995, Americans ate about 17 percent more leafy greens than they did the decade before. Yet the proportion of food-borne illnesses caused by leafy greens went up almost 60 percent. From 1996 through 2005, consumption increased another 9 percent and the proportion of illnesses linked to greens increased 39 percent.
Remember these safety tips when handling leafy greens or other produce:
• First, wash your hands with warm water and soap.
• Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing.
• Wash all fruits and vegetables under running water or use a spray nozzle. Do this for produce bought at the grocery store, grown at home, or at a local farmer’s market.
• Rub produce with your hands or a scrub brush to remove any lingering bacteria. Even if you plan to peel the fruit, it’s important to still clean it.
• Gently dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel.
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