If there was a contest to create the perfect environment to grow a deadly foodborne bacterium the winning entry would probably be very familiar to us — that bag ‘o salad you quite possibly tossed in your cart on that last grocery run.
Over five days in the fridge and 100 salmonella bacteria in a bag of salad can multiple to 100,000 bacteria, according to research done at the UK’s University of Leicester. The culprit here is what the researchers call the “salad juice,” which is that greenish fluid that flows from the lettuce leaves when they are broken or crushed. It seems that slimy liquid is like mother’s milk to salmonella. And when that juice mixes with water in the bag, it helps the bacteria spread across the soon-to-be-eaten contents.
Interestingly, other bacteria don’t love salad juice like salmonella does. This gives the toxic bug a leg up on the competition to multiply and spread within the bag.
While the researchers offer no tips on how to avoid getting sick from that bag of spring mix, this study should make you think twice about buying bagged salad. Salmonella causes one million illnesses and 380 deaths per year. That’s more deaths than the infamous E. Coli can claim.
Bagged salad may seem convenient, but all the time you save making dinner will seem insignificant if your family suffers even one salmonella-related illness.