Tuesday, February 19, 2013
ARE SALAD GREENS UNHEALTHY?
It seems that every few months in the United States there is a recall of salad greens, usually packaged as ready-to-eat items in bags. Almost always, they have been grown and packaged in the Salinas Valley, California.
There was a recall of Organic Baby Spinach products by Taylor Farms Retail, Inc. of Salinas a few days ago. The suspect bacteria was (EHEC) Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli. Exactly two months earlier the same firm had to recall bagged Hearts of Romaine lettuce, because of a finding of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. And seven months before that, Taylor Farms had to recall its bagged Organic Baby Spinach because it was potentially contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. E.coli, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella - all found in Taylor Farms bagged greens, just within 12 months!
But Taylor Farms is not the only Salinas company with repeat recalls for bagged greens. In 2012, as well as in 2011, River Ranch Fresh Foods, of Salinas, California had problems with its retail and foodservice bagged salads, because of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. Huge recalls resulted. And, so it goes, one company after another having to hastily retrieve its bagged greens from market shelves...on and on, recalls every few months, most of them originating in Salinas.
Is Salina Valley deadly? Well, we're not sure. Certainly, one reason for all these recalls of Salinas Valley grown greens is that some 80 percent of the salad greens that are eaten in the United States are grown in this area. In fact, it has been called "the salad bowl" of the United States.
But yes, there have been reports of groundwater and surface water contamination in parts of the Salinas Valley. And it is not only just bacteria. There are also ongoing concerns about water contamination due to dangerous metals like arsenic, and by nitrates. What is causing all it?
In the case of bacteria, the origin is usually animal feces. Much of the arsenic comes from natural geologic sources, but some also from commercial fertilizers that contain arsenic. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer could also be adding nitrates to the water. Greens grown in this area can absorb such contaminants.
So, enjoy your "healthy" greens, and try not to think too much about what else is in them, apart from those great nutrients.
To your good health,