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  • Writer's pictureShannon Sponagle

Is It Safe to Eat Salad Again?

Recently there has been a widespread listeria outbreak caused by contaminated salad greens from a Dole processing plant in Springfield, Ohio (who else is surprised that our salad is coming all the way from Ohio?!?!). Details are here:

The contaminated greens have been recalled and pulled from supermarket shelves. A lot of us, myself and my daughter included, ate some of the recalled greens, but our risk of actually contracting listeria is very low.*** My concern right now is the number of people who have told me that they are too scared to eat greens now and some are even nervous to eat any vegetables at all. I can understand the fear, but the risks to your health from not eating vegetables is much greater than your risk of contracting or becoming seriously ill from listeria. I’m hoping this post will give you confidence to eat your salad again (just not DOLE or President’s Choice brands, for the time being).

There are several easy precautions you can take to avoid listeria and other food borne illnesses. You may not realize that every year, more than 4 million Canadians get food poisoning. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques. So go out and get some greens and just follow these guidelines from to enjoy them safely:


  • Look for leaves that are crisp. Avoid ones that are wilted or brown.

  • If buying ready-to-eat, bagged, pre-washed leafy greens, make sure they are refrigerated.


  • Store leafy greens in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Discard when leaves become wilted or brown.

  • Bagged, ready-to-eat, pre-washed leafy greens should also be refrigerated and used before the expiration date.


  • Washing your hands and following proper cleaning techniques can help you avoid cross-contamination and prevent the spread of food poisoning.

  • Use warm water and soap to thoroughly wash all utensils, countertops, and cutting boards before and after handling leafy greens.


  • Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, before and after handling leafy greens.

  • Discard outer leaves.

  • Wash your leafy greens under fresh, cool running water. There is no need to use anything other than water to wash leafy greens. Washing them gently with water is as effective as using produce cleansers.

  • Keep rinsing until all of the dirt has been washed away.

  • Don't soak leafy greens in a sink full of water. They can become contaminated by bacteria in the sink.

Here I am confidently buying greens at my local farmer's market!

While we're at it (if you're still with me!), here are some further food safety guidelines from the American FDA that are always worth remembering:

Rinse raw produce, such as fruits and vegetables, thoroughly under running tap water before eating, cutting, or cooking. Even if the produce will be peeled, it should still be washed first.

Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.

Dry the produce with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Separate uncooked meats and poultry from vegetables, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods.

Keep your kitchen and environment cleaner and safer.

• Wash hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.

• Be aware that Listeria monocytogenes can grow in foods in the refrigerator. Use an appliance thermometer, such as a refrigerator thermometer, to check the temperature inside your refrigerator. The refrigerator should be 40°F (4C) or lower and the freezer 0°F (-18C) or lower.

• Clean up all spills in your refrigerator right away–especially juices from hot dog (no one reading my blog has HOT DOGS in their fridge right??!) and lunch meat packages, raw meat, and raw poultry.

• Clean the inside walls and shelves of your refrigerator with hot water and liquid soap, then rinse.

Cook meat and poultry thoroughly.

• Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork, or poultry to a safe internal temperature. For a list of recommended temperatures for meat and poultry, visit the safe minimum cooking temperatures chart at

Store foods safely.

• Use precooked or ready-to-eat food as soon as you can. Do not store the product in the refrigerator beyond the use-by date.

• Divide leftovers into shallow containers to promote rapid, even cooling. Cover with airtight lids or enclose in plastic wrap or aluminum foil (I prefer and highly recommend glass or stainless steel containers for leftovers). Use leftovers within 3 to 4 days.

This post might be a bit of a dull read, but I hope it’s useful and gives you the confidence to eat salad again!

*** Many people are exposed to Listeria, but only a few will actually develop listeriosis. Mild symptoms may include:

▪ fever

▪ muscle aches

▪ nausea

▪ diarrhea

Severe symptoms may include:

▪ headache

▪ poor coordination

▪ seizures

▪ neck stiffness

In the milder form of the disease, symptoms can start the following day after consuming a product with Listeria. For the more serious form of the disease, the incubation period is generally much longer; on average about 21 days, but can be up to 70 days after exposure.

Listeriosis can be treated with antibiotics, but early diagnosis is key, especially for people at high-risk, such as pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems. If you think you have symptoms of listeriosis, see your doctor immediately.

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