Prepacked ready-to-eat mixed ingredient salads (RTE salads) are readily available whole meals that include a variety of ingredients such as raw vegetables, cooked meat, and pasta.
As part of a trend toward healthy convenience foods, RTE salads have become an increasingly popular product among consumers. However, data on the incidence of foodborne pathogens in RTE salads are scarce.
In this study, the microbiological safety of 141 RTE salads containing chicken, ham, or smoked salmon was investigated. Salad samples were collected at retail and analyzed using standard methods for Listeria monocytogenes, Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC), pathogenic Yersinia enterocolitica, Salmonella, and Campylobacter spp.L. monocytogenes was isolated from two (1.4%) of the RTE salad samples.
Seven (5.0%) of the samples were positive for the ail gene (present in all human pathogenic Y. enterocolitica isolates) and three (2.1%) of the samples were positive for the Shiga toxin genes stx 1 and/or stx 2. However, no strains of pathogenic Y.enterocolitica or STEC were isolated.
Thus, pathogens were found or suspected in almost 1 of 10 RTE salads investigated, and pathogenic bacteria probably are present in various RTE salads from retail premises in Sweden.
Because RTE salads are intended to be consumed without heat treatment, control of the ingredients and production hygiene is essential to maintain consumer safety. The recommended maximum storage temperature for RTE salads varies among countries but can be up to 8°C (e.g., in Sweden). Even during a short shelf life (3 to 5 days), storage at 8°C can enable growth of psychrotrophs such as L. monocytogenes and Y. enterocolitica. The maximum storage temperature should therefore be reduced.
Foodborne bacterial pathogens in retail prepacked ready-to-eat mixed ingredient salads
Journal of Food Protection®, Number 6, June 2016, pp. 896-1055, pp. 978-985(8)
Söderqvist, Karin; Thisted Lambertz, Susanne; Vågsholm, Ivar; Boqvist, Sofia