Accomplished food safety reporter from the New York Times William Neuman published an article today on a new wash developed by Fresh Express (industry leader in food safety and R & D) that is as many as 750 times as effective as chlorine solutions currently used at killing E. coli and Salmonella.  Mr. Neuman:

The produce industry — rocked by several major recalls in recent years linked to outbreaks of salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria — has been searching for a better way to wash the lettuce, spinach and other greens it bags and sells in grocery stores and to restaurants. 

 Now, the nation’s leading producer of bagged salad greens, Fresh Express, says that washing them in a mild acid solution accomplishes the task.

The company plans to announce on Friday that it is abandoning the standard industry practice of washing leafy greens with chlorine and has begun using the acid mixture, which it claims is many times more effective in killing bacteria. The new wash solution, called FreshRinse, contains organic acids commonly used in the food industry, including lactic acid, a compound found in milk.


Progress is good, especially considering where we’ve been.  Here is a list of outbreaks involving leafy greens since 1993:

1. August 1993 – E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to a salad bar; 53 reported cases in Washington State

2. July 1995 – Lettuce (leafy green; red; romaine) E. coli O157:H7; 70 reported cases in Montana

3. September 1995 – Lettuce (romaine) E. coli O157:H7; 20 reported cases in Idaho

4. September 1995 – Lettuce (iceberg) E. coli O157:H7; 30 reported cases in Maine

5. October 1995 – Lettuce (iceberg; unconfirmed) E. coli O157:H7; 11 reported cases in Ohio

6. May-June 1996 – Lettuce (mesclun; red leaf) E. coli O157:H7; 61 reported cases in Connecticut, Illinois, and New York

7. May 1998 – Salad E. coli O157:H7; two reported cases in California

8. February.-March 1999 – Lettuce (iceberg) E. coli O157:H7; 72 reported cases in Nebraska

9. July-August 2002 – Lettuce (romaine) E. coli O157:H7; 29 reported cases in Washington and Idaho

10. October 2003-May 2004 – Lettuce (mixed salad) E. coli O157:H7; 57 reported cases in California

11. April 2004 – Spinach E. coli O157:H7; 16 reported cases in California

12. September 2005 – Lettuce (romaine) E. coli O157:H7; 32 reported cases in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Oregon

13. September 2006 – Spinach E. coli O157:H7; 205 case (five deaths) nationwide

14. November 2006 – Lettuce E. coli O157:H7; New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania; 71 sickened

15. December 2006 – Lettuce E. coli O157:H7; Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin; 81 ill

16. May 2008 – Lettuce E. coli O157:H7; Washington; 9 ill

17, And of course, the Freshway lettuce E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in April of this year. 

Aside from the Freshway outbreak and a number of lettuce and spinach recalls of product that did not ultimately result in any illnesses, produce outbreaks have been down after the rash a few years ago of some devastating ones.