Home » Health » ‘Bat Salad Case’ Spotlights Potential Bagged Lettuce Contamination

If you’re doing your best to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, the convenience of pre-washed bagged salads may be too hard to resist. The problem is such products can contain contaminants and foreign substances that can make you sick.

That reality was dramatically spotlighted last month when two people ate fresh salad from a bagged lettuce product before discovering the remains of a bat in it. Further complicating things, the unfortunate were treated for rabies as a precaution (although lab tests later showed the bat was not rabid).

Peter Cassell, spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), noted the case was extremely rare and not a reason for a larger public health concern.

“Packaged salads are generally safe to eat right out of the package,” he said. “Most salads are double-washed or triple-washed and dried under managed conditions. Packaged salads are widely sold for consumer’s convenience.”

But he acknowledged such products can contain contaminants, so consumers need to take precautions to be sure they are not consuming anything dangerous or, at least, unappetizing.

“The most common extraneous materials that can be found in produce grown close to the ground include stones, rocks and dirt,” he noted. “One way consumers can identify and remove these materials is to pour the salad out into a bowl and lightly sift it with clean hands or utensils. There is no need to rewash salads that have already been washed before packaging.”

It’s not the first time that consumers have encountered problems with pre-washed salads, veggies, and fruit. Last year, four people died and 33 became ill from listeria in packaged salads.

Listeria found in food processing plants is not uncommon, but it isn’t always toxic. Dole salads, the problem in the case of listeria, closed the offending plant, issued a recall, and followed FDA requirements to sanitize its processing systems.

The salad with the dead bat was in…

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