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Consumer Reports Finds Listeria In Leafy Greens Sold At Grocery Stores

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Consumer Reports found the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, a potentially deadly bacteria, in six samples of fresh greens bought at major grocery store chains.

Consumer Reports said the samples of fresh greens, including green kale, spinach and lettuce, were purchased at grocery store chains such as Acme, Costco, Hannaford, and Whole Foods.

All of the greens were purchased between June 3 and June 19, 2019 in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. After testing 284 samples, six samples were found to have contained Listeria.

Two of the six samples, a spinach and an organic spinach-spring mix, were packaged, prewashed greens. The other four were loose heads or bunches of green kale, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and spinach.

However, CR noted that its study was not large enough to draw conclusions about the safety of specific brands or retailers.

"But the testing underscores that industry needs to do more to improve the safety of leafy greens," according to the CR report.

CR decided to conduct the test due to outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce and other leafy greens in recent years. While its test found the presence of listeria, it did not find other bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses, such as salmonella and E. coli, in any of the samples tested.

However, the report advises vulnerable sections of the population to carefully consider whether to eat raw leafy greens since the safest move was to stick with greens that can be cooked.
The CR study findings triggered an inspection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA, but the agency is yet to confirm if its follow-up testing is complete.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC estimates that 1,600 people develop listeria each year. Almost everyone who develops the disease requires hospitalization and about 20 percent die.

According to the FDA, listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures, but it grows more slowly at refrigerator temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

To prevent the risk of Listeria infection, the FDA advises to keep the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or lower, and the freezer at zero degrees Fahrenheit or less.

In addition, it is recommended that foods be kept covered, while the refrigerator and kitchen surfaces should often be cleaned.

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