Before you crack the plastic on another bagged salad, read these tips carefully. Because, while you might not be able to control what happens pre-bagging (remember, the risk is pretty low, statistically speaking), you can control your salad’s journey to your plate and your mouth, which — both experts agree — is just as important.
1. Look before you grab. At the grocery store, don’t just make sure that bag of greens isn’t expired. Go for the absolute latest “use by” date you can find. (In one Consumers Union test, bagged salad greens that were closer to their “use by” date had higher levels of contamination.) You’ll also want to inspect what’s happening on the inside. If the greens are already discolored or damaged, toss that bag back. The same goes for packages where condensation has collected at the bottom. “Moisture is one thing that can make bacteria grow faster,” says Moore.
2. Keep them cold. You know how you’ll let the veggies sit out while you put the other groceries away? Make it a priority to stuff them in the fridge first, right along with your yogurt and milk. Even if it’s only brief, warm temps will cause bacteria to grow, just like moisture does. (Don’t let your lunchtime salad sit out on your desk all morning, either.)
3. Forget rewashing. Most bags or containers will say “pre-washed” or “triple-washed” — and if they do, there’s really no point in rinsing them again. For one, you might expose them to more bacteria in your sink or its surroundings. But, getting them wet again also increases the moisture (no salad spinner is 100% effective, says Moore), which then breeds any bacteria that may or may not already be in the leaves.
4. Eat them quickly. Not to sound like a broken record here, but you want to get these fresh — and eat them fresh, too. That means no family-size bags or bulk buys if you’re single. “You want to buy exactly what you need for the next couple of days,” says Moore. “The bottom line is, the longer you keep them, the more chances there are for the bacteria to multiply.” So, eat up — and fast.