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Washing lettuce: Does it really get rid of bacteria? - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Washing lettuce: Does it really get rid of bacteria?

(Source: KPLC) (Source: KPLC)
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

This year has seen its fair share of food recalls, including several varieties of salad mix sold at popular stores and served at restaurants. With the threat of bacteria, is it possible to wash it off? 

At least 6 food-related outbreaks are going on around the country, prompting health officials to issue a number of recalls.

The latest concern is over lettuce that was distributed to stores like Kroger and Walmart; the second major contamination of lettuce this year.

Federal health officials reported Thursday an additional 109 cases of Cyclospora infection in an ongoing outbreak linked to McDonald's salads that began in May.

The total number of laboratory-confirmed illnesses from this outbreak is now 395, according to a statement from the US Food and Drug Administration. At least 16 of the sick individuals have been hospitalized.

With this new outbreak, it leaves many to wonder just how much does water do the trick when it comes to removing the bacteria that live on our food?

Nutritionist, Dr. Eric Snow says, "It does not completely get rid of all of it, you almost have to scrub with some type of brush."

Restaurant owner, Dave Phillips says you have to invest the time to clean your product safely before sending it to customers.

"It's the romaine lettuce and the leaf lettuce that we have to worry about," said Phillips, "Usually you find a lot of dirt and that's where most of the contamination happens."

The CDC has noted an uptick in multi-state outbreaks this year so far, though, as previously noted, it’s too early to say if outbreaks are growing more frequent over time. 

Due to their enticing convenience, sales of pre-packaged salads are on the rise and, given trends in dining, Americans, in general, are gorging more on fresh produce. Raw foods always carry more risk because people don’t cook them to kill off potentially harmful bacteria. 

The FDA estimates that roughly 1 in 6 Americans contract a food borne illness each year. 

"Most bacteria can't be washed off," agreed Snow. And although it happens rarely, bacteria in soil can also be taken up by the roots of plants and remain inside the plant's veins where they would be impossible to remove by washing.

So what can companies do to ensure customers don't get sick? Phillips says reputable distributors play a major role.

"It's just a matter of staying on top of what's going on and doing your best to protect everybody from it."

Copyright 2018 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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