FPC slams claims of bagged salad food-poisoning risk

The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) has hit back at media reports that the public needs to be aware of the risk of food poisoning posed by pre-washed bagged salads.

The reports, in several national newspapers last week, were based on a speech made by Professor Gadi Frankel of Imperial College, London, at last week's Food Micro 2008 conference in Aberdeen.

Frankel said that cases of Salmonella and E. coli are likely to increase as more people than ever eat pre-washed bagged salads.

He said: "It is about individual choice but people should be aware of the risks so they can make informed decisions about whether they want to wash their food or not. This is why it's important to get a head-start with understanding how contamination occurs now."

He revealed that research at the University of Birmingham has found that Salmonella bacteria are able to use their flagella - their stringy "propellors" - to grip salad leaves and contaminate them.

Scientists know that Salmonella and E. coli 0157 - which can cause serious sickness in humans - can spread to salads and vegetables if they are fertilised with contaminated manure or come into contact with contaminated products.

But the FPC said the reports failed to put in perspective the tiny risk of contamination of pre-packed salads. It said in a statement: "Food poisoning outbreaks associated with ... prepared salads are extremely rare in the UK. We should encourage people to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. The risk of ill-health ... and obesity far outweighs the minute risk of contamination of pre-packed salads."

Current advice from food safety experts is that it is not necessary to re-wash packed salads that have been pre-washed.

- The FPC is reviewing and updating its Food Hygiene Guide and would welcome input. Contact info@freshproduce.org.uk.

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