(April 13) If a bagged salad has a washed, triple-washed or ready-to-eat label, the end-user should trust that label.

By rewashing a bagged salad, the end user could increase the risk of contamination.

That’s the message food safety experts are sending the Food and Drug Administration and the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, Calif.

Those guidelines are related to the fresh produce industry’s "Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Lettuce and Leafy Greens Supply Chain," said Jerry Welcome, president of the Alexandria, Va.-based International Fresh-cut Produce Association.

University, government and produce industry officials discussed possible food safety recommendations April 4 at the University of California Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, Davis, Calif. Sponsors of the event were the California Department of Health, United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington, D.C., and IFPA.

Industry associations played host to the meeting partially in response to the FDA’s Nov. 4 letter to produce associations and companies who deal with lettuce, Welcome said. The FDA letter showed concern over 18 outbreaks of E. coli from bagged lettuce and one outbreak from spinach.

But the California Department of Health specifically requested that a scientific panel discuss possible recommendations because health departments had differing opinions on the rewashing of bagged salads.

“If uninformed or local regulators like county or city regulators go into a foodservice establishment and say they need to re-wash a salad again, that’s simply not the case,” said Jim Gorny, vice president of quality assurance and technology at United.

The produce industry believes that washing is best done under controlled conditions, said David Gombas, vice president technical services for IFPA.

However, if end-users choose to rewash, Gombas said they should follow guidance found in the Partnership for Food Safety Education’s Fight Bac! campaign. The Washington D.C.-based partnership has published campaign materials at www.fightbac.org.