Are Bagged Salads Hazardous to Your Health?

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Yesterday, I provided a super salad recipe for your Mother’s Day menu. But if you rely on bagged greens when preparing salads, you need to know about a report that recently aired on Dateline NBC.


Chief Consumer Correspondent Lea Thompson (left) revealed 26 people in three states became ill after eating bagged lettuce. Amber Brister, 11, was hospitalized with kidney failure, requiring dialysis and blood transfusions to clear toxins from her body and fight life-threatening infection.

The problem wasn’t limited to Amber, Thompson reported. A 54-year-old man in nearby Minneapolis was sick for several days before being rushed to his local hospital with excruciating pain and hemorrhaging from his colon. Within three days, 10 more cases were reported.

At this point, physicians suspected their patients’ problems were linked to contaminated food. Per protocol, they called in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) for assistance. Experts suspected E. coli 0157:H7—a bacterium usually associated with eating undercooked ground beef.

The real culprit, however, was bagged salad—the No. 2 cause of E. coli-related foodborne illness. Infection presents with stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome—the condition that leads to kidney failure. According to MDH, patients typically become ill two to five days after eating contaminated food.

The CDC then issued a warning about bagged salad risks and a voluntary recall for specific brands. In the meantime, 26 people in three states had suffered lettuce-induced illness.

Now for the big question: Would eating organic lettuce have prevented this problem? Not necessarily. Tune in tomorrow for the reasons why you need to be careful with any bagged salad—organic or nonorganic.

Photo courtesy of NBC

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