What You Should Never Overlook When Shopping For Bagged Salads

Walking past the plethora of salad mixes while shopping in the grocery store can be overwhelming, but as you peruse the bagged greens, you may start wondering how fresh and crisp they actually are. It probably wasn't that long ago that you brought home a bagged salad mix, and upon opening it, you encountered an unpleasant, ammonia-like odor. Or maybe it smelled fine, but a substantial portion of the bag was filled with slimy leaves, ruining your plans for a veggie-packed feast.

If you want to avoid bringing home tainted salad in the future, thoroughly examine the ones you pick out before walking out of the store. Check the "best by" date first. If the date on the bag is soon approaching, you may want to dig toward the back of the row to find a better candidate. Next, check the bottom of the bag and look for any signs of wilted salad. Then, check the bag from every angle, and shake it up a bit to get a good look at the greens in the center so you can ensure there are no slimy clumps. 

Some salad mixes stay fresh longer than others

Some salad mixes, just like produce in general, will persevere better than others, and this is because the type of mix you pick up impacts how fast it will spoil. Heartier greens, like kale and romaine, will last longer than some of their more tender cousins. Salad greens such as baby spinach and arugula will bruise easily and go slimy faster. If you're willing to forego a mesclun mix for some romaine, your salad greens may be more forgiving as they wait to shine in your next meal.

Once you get home with your quality greens, you still have some work to do to ensure they stay that way. The first step would be to empty the bag and wash the contents to remove any dirt or contaminants that made it past harvest and packaging. After completely drying them, transfer them to a plastic bag, and before you close the bag, blow some air into it; the carbon dioxide can help your salad greens stay fresher longer. Additionally, put a paper towel inside the bag to absorb any moisture trapped inside the bag. If the paper towel becomes soggy, replace it with a dry one.

Is it safe to eat if it's slimy?

Even after taking all the precautions to ensure your bagged salad mix is a quality one, you may still open it up later and notice some scummy leaves. So what now? Is any of that salad still good? Worry not — if some sub-par greens are tainting your mix, it should still be safe to eat. While these bits can contain bacteria, it's unlikely to make someone ill if consumed. However, once spoilage starts to occur, it will spread quickly, and if there is any problematic bacteria in the salad, it will spread with it. 

As a rule of thumb, if half or more of the bag contains spoiled leaves, it's best to toss it all. Also, keep an eye out for recalls; according to Consumer Reports, romaine lettuce and bagged salads were the second most recalled food item between 2017 and 2022. If you take precautions to get a quality product before you finish your shopping, you won't have to worry about throwing a whole bag of salad away when you get it home. Worst case scenario, you'll find a few slimy culprits that you can safely remove and enjoy the rest. Taking a couple of extra minutes to give your salad mix a thorough quality check will lend you peace of mind, knowing your luscious produce will stay fresh and won't go to waste.