Report finds listeria in leafy greens sold at supermarkets

Published: Jul. 26, 2019 at 3:51 PM EDT
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Consumer Reports discovered some leafy greens recently sold at supermarkets were contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria. Here's what you need to know.

Consumer Reports tested 284 samples of fresh greens, including lettuce, spinach and kale, sold at supermarkets. They found six of those samples tainted with listeria, a potentially deadly bacteria. Two of the samples were packaged and prewashed, the other four were loose heads or bunches.

"Washing does not necessarily remove bacteria," said Trisha Calvo of Consumer Reports. "The bacteria can get stuck to the leaves and adhere in microscopic crevices, so washing is not a guarantee that a lettuce or a green won't have bacteria in it."

Calvo says people at the highest risk of complications from listeria are the elderly, pregnant women and young children. She suggests they consider not eating raw leafy greens.

"The safest thing for them to do is to eat greens they can cook," Calvo said.

The tainted greens were sold at four different food retailers in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York in June.

Public health officials have not reported any illnesses or concerns following their own inspections.

Consumer Reports is not advising anyone to stop eating leafy greens but instead wants consumers to pay attention to food safety.

"One thing you can do to protect yourself is to eat them as soon as you buy them," Calvo said. "You don't want to give the bacteria time to grow if it is on the greens."

A trade association that represents retailers, wholesalers and suppliers that sell products to grocery stores says, "The incidents outlined in Consumer Reports remind us that the entire supply chain has a responsibility for safe food handling."

Calvo says one way to minimize bacteria risk is to avoid raw greens at restaurants.

Exposure to listeria can cause the disease listeriosis which usually requires hospitalization and could lead to death.