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Why you should put lettuce in the fridge

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Put lettuce in the fridge—the cold air will help kill off any nasty bugs on the leaves.

Lettuce has often been the culprit when there’s been an outbreak of foodborne illness; its leaves are natural homes for pathogens such as E.coli, a common cause of food poisoning.  Any form of lettuce—romaine, green-leaf, spinach, kale and collards—can carry the bacteria.

Washing the leaves is a good first step before eating, but it doesn’t seem to get rid of all the pathogens, but putting the lettuce in the fridge does.  Storing lettuce in a fridge that’s set to 4 degrees C (39 degrees F) kills off most of the E. coli on the leaves, say researchers from the University of Illinois.

It’s important to wash and refrigerate lettuce before eating.  When the lettuce is cut, it releases a vegetable juice that encourages the bacteria to grow and spread on the leaves.

Paradoxically, the very reverse is true for waxy greens like kale and collards like cabbage and broccoli. Putting them in the fridge will encourage E.coli’s spread, but storing them in a warmer environment, such as a kitchen, will kill the bacteria.

And cutting them up will also help eliminate the bacteria; their juice, lysate, is a natural antibacterial.

References
Food Microbiology, 2024; 119: 104432; doi: 10.1016/j.fm.2023.104432
Article Topics: food
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