Tests show bagged greens in Oregon
Back to Main MenuBusiness News HomeFront PorchIt Only MoneyOregon the EconomyPlaybooks ProfitsSilicon ForestWindow ShopStock Market ReportBusiness Public BlogBack to Main MenuVideos from the OregonianVideos from The Beaverton LeaderVideos from the Hillsboro ArgusVideos from The Forest Grove LeaderYour VideosBagged leafy greens so fresh, healthy and quickly tossed into a salad have scientists concerned.Lab tests on major brands selling both organic and n prada onorganic greens in Oregon and across the country showed high levels of bacteria that point to unsanitary conditions.”We wanted to see if greens were looking good or whether there was anything to worry about,” said Jean Halloran, director of food policy at the Consumers Union, which ordered the tests. “Some brands seemed to do better than oth prada ers but all of them had bad examples.”The company tested 208 bags of greens purchased last August in the region surrounding its offices in Yonkers, New York. The brands included Dole, Earthbound Farm Organic and Fresh Express all popular in Oregon grocery stores plus some store and regional brands.The samples included “pre washed” and “triple washed” salad greens sold in clamshells or bags.Nearly 40 percent of them showed high levels of coliform and more than 20 percent had a high concentration of enterococus both “indicator” bacteria.”These are bacteria that are commonly used by public health experts to gauge if there is fecal contamination,” Halloran said. “These bacteria are no prada t, for the most part, harmful to humans but we care about them because they can indicate that there’s fecal contamination from humans or animals, and if you get that it can indicate the presence of something much more dangerous.”Halloran said tests for salmonella, listeria and E. coli O157:H7 which can cause serious gastro intestinal illnesses and even death came up negative.”We didn’t really expect to find them,” she said. “You would have to test 1,000 samples to find a few of these.”The results of the study are published in the March edition of “Consumer Report,” which hits newsstands this week.The article offers advice for consumers wash greens even if they’re prewashed and pick bags of produce that are the freshest.The tests showed that bags closest to their use by date had a higher presence of the bacteria.There was virtually no difference between organic and nonorganic greens.The Consumers Union launched the tests to see whether a 2007food safety campaign started by produce companies in California has had much effect.”We were a little surprised that the results weren’t better,” she said. Department of Agriculture along with water. But there are no such standards for the produce industry, which falls under the Food and Drug Administration. Senate amid wrangling over health care and other issues would sew up that loophole, forcing producers to identify and establish food safety practices aimed at preventing contamination.The FDA knows there are problems in the $3 billion a year produce industry.Last year a study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found leafy greens rose to the top of a list of 10 foods regulated by the FDA that had cause prada d food poisoning outbreaks between 1990 to 2009.One of the worse instances was in 2006 when spinach produced by Dole killed at least three and sickened 199, including 102 hospitalizations, in an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak.With bipartisan support for stepped up food safety, the Consumers Union called on the Senate to pass the Food Safety Modernization Act.