Raw kale tale

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes,

Kale has become the food that apparently does everything: cancer protection, lower cholesterol, provides antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K and minerals iron and potassium, and in the improvement of eye health. Repeatedly called a “superfood” (a quick Google search will reveal over a million hits), kale is often consumed cooked, much like collard, mustard, and turnip greens.IMG_4961

Yet, I’ve been regularly seeing it served raw—in restaurant dishes, recipes in cooking magazines, in friends’ homes, and even in bagged salads at the grocery store.  While it is delicious, I think a lot about how it was grown, processed, and packaged. Microbial food safety might not be number one for kale producers as they might reason that consumers and restaurants traditionally cook the greens and reducing pathogen risk in the process. The control point, historically was in the kitchen.

A couple of years ago, I’d think that raw kale was an anomaly, but given it’s popularity (see: 50 Shades of Kale cookbook, the fact that kale has had a 400% increase in menu appearances over the last 4 years, and even celebrities love it), it seems poised to stick around.

Now that there’s been such a shift to raw consumption, I trust that the industry has addressed the production, harvesting and packing related risks. As a shopper and eater, trust is about all I have since no one is talking about whether growers have taken the appropriate precautions so that it won’t make me sick.

This entry was posted in Food Safety Culture, Food Safety Policy and tagged , , by Ben Chapman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.
  • We regularly get this in our veg box in the UK. It’s OK if you cook the hell out of it. Anyone eating it raw probably has the stomachs of a ruminant so they might have some protection against pathogens as well!

  • VB

    Even with the best HAACP program, kale could make you barf because it’s just a nasty, nasty vegetable. It’s loaded with tanins that make your tongue feel like sandpaper has gone over it, and the fiber will definitely clean you out. Super food or not, it’s super gross. Let’s leave kale where it should be–as a garnish or as an ornamental plant that survives cold temps. As they say, this too will pass.

  • Kale – its whats for dinner

    Unfortunately the article is right. There is a huge shift to eating or juicing raw kale. It is not that gross especially if prepared properly. Some varieties are not that easy to wash at home and my fear is it could become a potential outbreak source if the industry does not treat it as a leafy green. In California my experience so far is that it is grown to leafy green standards on a voluntary basis – but that does not mean it is the right distance from a dairy for example!

  • Katrina

    To serve kale raw in a salad, I’ve read to “massage” the kale leaves and add some sort of oil-based dressing and a little salt. This helps to break down the tough fibers and make it more tender, as well as adding flavor and lubrication with the dressing. However, it would be important to wash the kale leaves first, pat them dry with a clean towel (so the oil will coat the leaves better), and make sure your hands are clean first before massaging the leaves. Also make sure to keep the raw kale away from raw animal products to avoid cross contamination.