1. Leafy Greens—Iceberg, romaine, leaf, butter, and baby leaf lettuces, along with escarole, endive, spring mix, spinach, cabbage, kale, arugula, or chard, fit into the leafy green category, one that accounts for nearly 25 percent of all tainted food outbreaks. In 2006, bagged spinach contaminated with an especially virulent pathogen, E. coli O157:H7, caused several deaths and hundreds of illnesses. According to the report, outbreaks from leafy greens may arise from production or processing, poor worker hygiene, cross-contamination of cutting boards or other equipment, or contaminated water or manure. While a hypothesis that wild animals were responsible for contaminating plants (the pathogens can actually survive inside the plant, so you can't always wash it off) surfaced, preliminary research out of California's Department of Fish and Game and University of California, Davis, and the United States Department of Agriculture found that isn't the likely cause. "The small number of positive animals suggests the risk for produce contamination by wildlife is probably low, and following good agricultural practices should minimize the public health risk," says Robert Mandrell, the principle investigator of the study and team leader of the Produce Microbiology and Safety Research Unit, U.C. Davis. Unfortunately, misconceptions about the role of animals in E. coli contamination is resulting farmers being pressured remove wildlife corridors and plantings. That means fewer beneficial insects are attracted to the farms, and increases the farmers' dependence on chemical pesticides.
You can grow your own lettuce almost year-round with a cold frame, or find a local farmer who does through Localharvest.org.
Healthy Recipe: Greek Village Salad with Feta