Ready-made salads in bags: are they safe? Here are 8 things to know

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Louise Hay

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Open the salad bag, dress and bring to the table, if in addition they are enriched with cheese or chicken, dried fruit or olives, here is a nice complete dish served. The ready-made salads in bags have many advantages: you eliminate the time spent cleaning, which can discourage the consumption of vegetables; there are no waste, they have no preservatives and they help you to vary your diet.

But can we trust the quality and food safety? Do they contain disinfectants or other chemical additives? Here are the clarifications of our trusted food technologist, Dr. Giorgio Donegani.

1. They are not treated with chemical disinfectants. And you don't need an extra wash

«Salads in bags are certainly safe, because they must comply with binding parameters both in the production cycle and in distribution, first of all the obligation to guarantee the cold chain in all phases, at a constant temperature below 8 ° C. This is to avoid alterations of the nutritional principles and the proliferation of bacteria », explains the expert.
Once harvested, the salads come thereavate, dried and packaged in a few hours; to guarantee the maximum possible freshness, they are generally grown in fields adjacent to the processing plant. «The leaves are washed twice, in long tunnels and it is the pressure of the jet that eliminates the dirt. No disinfectant is added », continues Donegani. Therefore further washing is useless, trust me.

2. Industrial washing does not deplete them in nutrients

«Washing techniques do not involve soaking, but the use of running drinking water, limiting the dispersion of vitamins and minerals to a minimum. The tests carried out with respect to the bulk product did not reveal any particular differences from a nutritional point of view », says Donegani.

3. They do not contain preservatives

But how do they stay good? "Ready-made salads can be kept in the fridge thanks to the low temperature and the fact that, inside the package, a sort of modified atmosphere is created. No additives are used, it is enough to seal the bag or tray which hinders the penetration of oxygen and oxidation processes; at the same time, it prevents the release of the carbon dioxide emitted by the leaves which, thus, do not wither, also preventing the development of mold. All this is valid as long as the package remains cold and tightly closed ", explains the food technologist.

4. If you smell grass when opening the bag it is normal, it does not indicate an alteration

It may happen that when you open the package, an intense smell of grass is released: don't worry, it's not a sign of alteration. «It depends on the concentration of gases released by the leaves, which continue to" breathe ". It's a natural phenomenon».
You will see that as soon as the contents take air, the smell will vanish.

5. If the salad is past its expiry date, before throwing it away, look at the leaves

The storage period is on average 5-7 days (also depending on the season). The expiry date must be clearly visible on the package, as well as the words “keep in the refrigerator at a temperature below 8 ° C; furthermore it should be indicated that it should be consumed within two days once the envelope is opened. If you have any leftover, leave it in its bag, close it tightly and eat the rest by the next day; not only: to guarantee you a fresh and quality product from a nutritional point of view, better to use it at least a couple of days before it expires, also because there are varieties that keep better and others that are more easily perishable.
Did you forget it in the fridge and did it just expire? «Use common sense: when the tray has not been opened, check the contents by observing the leaves before throwing it away. If they aren't shriveled, too soft, or blackened, the product is still good. There are no health risks, because in the absence of rot, dangerous bacteria and molds do not develop », Donegani points out.

6. If the bag is swollen and there is a lot of condensation throw everything away

When the bag appears puffy and with many visibly moist leaves stuck to the inner surface, or if too much condensation is detected, the salad will likely taste bad and it is best not to consume it.

7. Do not purchase products with blackened, soft leaves

«In addition to checking the expiration date, pay attention to the presence of blackened and soft leaves: it indicates a beginning of alteration". It means that the bacteria are in action and the product may have acquired unpleasant odors and tastes. The problem arises especially when the salad is cut into thin strips or smaller pieces.

8. The organic choice has more value for the protection of the environment than for the pesticide risk

"Even in non-organic products the quantity of pesticides used is very low and the problem of possible residues is limited", assures Donegani.


Attentive to the quality-price ratio, especially in the mix: it evaluates the presence of qualitatively more valuable and tasty varieties such as rocket, red and green radicchio. By law, the ingredients must be indicated on the label in decreasing order of quantity, but if no type of salad predominates, they can simply be listed with the words “in variable proportion”. Hence the opportunity to evaluate by eye the actual presence of the best varieties.


Cut into julienne strips or slices, at times, in the mix of different salads, they lose color and appear “pale”. It depends on the slight dehydration they undergo during storage but it does not mean that they are now withered and that the salad has lost its freshness. Once the bag is opened, by absorbing humidity, they usually regain color.


Once purchased, pre-washed packaged salads should be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature between 4 and 8 ° C. The ideal place is the bottom vegetable drawer, where they are also less exposed to changes in light and temperature each time the door is opened or closed. Center shelves are also good. Avoid colder areas or towards the bottom where the serpentine passes. They risk freezing and therefore undergoing alterations.

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