The introduction of fresh, triple-washed bags of salad and spinach was a boon to time-pressed consumers trying to eat more healthily. That’s why so many nutrition experts fear that the recent recall of bagged spinach contaminated by a strain of E. coli may send shoppers scrambling for less healthy fare.
The good news is that, with a little bit of inventiveness, your clients can continue to feed their families the recommended amounts of fresh produce each day. Here are a few creative substitutions to pass along, plus some food safety recommendations:
- Instead of bagged spinach, try Chinese cabbage for the base of your next salad; toss with broccoli heads and artichoke hearts, and top with safflower oil and vinegar.
- Steam and chill winter vegetables, like cauliflower, celery and carrots; then dress the chilled veggies with canola oil, vinegar and a smattering of sunflower seeds for a crunchy treat.
- Replace a green salad with a colorful fruit salad using winter melons and bananas.
- Cut up green, red and yellow peppers, and top with strawberries and a splash of balsamic vinegar and sunflower oil.
- Scrub firm produce, such as cucumbers or apples, using a clean vegetable brush. Thoroughly wash all produce under cool tap water before eating.
- Remove outer leaves of leafy vegetables, and cut off bruised or brown spots or wilted pieces.
- If you do purchase prepackaged produce, keep the bags refrigerated; cut produce has more exposed surfaces, making it more vulnerable to bacteria growth.
- Remember that cooking produce is the only way to prevent the spread of E. coli; it is very difficult—if not impossible—to completely wash off this type of bacteria, and E. coli can even withstand freezing, so frozen food is still vulnerable. Both ground beef and produce need to be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill E. coli bacteria.
- If you do suspect that you have become ill from eating contaminated food, save the suspected item so that health authorities can test it.
- Keep in mind that nutrition experts say that bagged, triple-washed produce may still be safer than whole heads of lettuce or spinach, since shoppers are more likely to contaminate the latter items with their hands.
- For more food safety tips, go to www.foodsafety.gov.