In this guide, we will briefly discuss ‘how long does an unopened bag of salad last?’ also the factors that affect its shelf life and how you can store the salad bag properly.
How long does unopened bagged salad last?
An unopened bag of salad will last up to 5 to 7 days if properly stored in the fridge (or earlier based on the expiry date on the package). If the same bag is left on the countertop for more than 2 hours, it may go bad before you can salvage it. So it’s best to keep the salad bag in the fridge.
Expiry dates on packs are for a reason, it indicates that the food if consumed past this date may cause a potential health risk or may not cause any health risk. Therefore, it’s often advised to follow such dates for your own health.
The minimal technological processing ensures the preservation of organoleptic properties but is related to a generally shorter shelf-life compared to the starting product. The average shelf-life of ready to eat salads ranges from 5 to 7 days, and, after packages have been opened, products can be stored at refrigeration temperatures lower than 8 °C for a maximum of 2 days (1).
What makes your salad go bad?
The main issue associated with these products is the high microbiological risk associated with their consumption. Microbiological contamination is common and inevitable in vegetables growing in soil. Typical environmental microorganisms found in soil and irrigation water contaminate plants infiltrating through roots or exposed (wounded or cut) surfaces and get internalized by the plant’s coating that creates a natural biofilm that protects them from surface treatments. The microflora can be further modified by other microorganisms that come in contact with the product during each step of the production chain (1).
- Salads are generally high in moisture and a common food rule says that food with high moisture content is more susceptible to microbial spoilage hence goes bad more quickly.
- Temperature also plays a vital role. Bagged salad requires a cold, humid and dry environment. Bacteria thrive between 4 – 60 degrees C or 40 – 140 degrees F. Therefore, bagged salad needs to be stored in the fridge.
- The permissive high pH (6.0–7.0), the lack of stringent decontamination procedures and the impact of temperature abuse during processing, transportation and storage can further increase the risk associated with these products.
How to make your salad last longer?
Following a few simple steps can make sure that you make the most out of your price. These steps are;
- Make sure that you are starting fresh or the bag you are to purchase is at its peak freshness. This will aid you in getting a few more days.
- Delicate small greens like arugula or baby spinach have a shorter shelf life. Make sure your bag doesn’t have these as they will cause the whole bag to go bad much quicker.
- Greens like lettuce, iceberg or romaine last longer with heads/stem on. So if you want that it’s better to ditch pre-plucked ones and get the one with their heads on.
- Check before storage. Any rotted, slimy or wilted leaves will compromise the shelf life of the whole bag. So it’s best to have a peek around and discard such leaves.
- Wrap your fresh leaves in a kitchen towel. This helps in catching any excess moisture around the leaves. Keep an eye on the towel, if it gets too damp replace it.
- Your fridge does the most work so it’s best to keep an eye on your thermostat. It is advised to keep your thermostat below 4 degrees C or 41 degrees F for maximum shelf life.
- Speaking of the fridge, the vegetable section or the bottom drawers are there for a reason. They are high humid drawers that circulate gas to make sure the product doesn’t go bad too early. Utilize it.
- For maximum shelf life keep the bag closed and upright in the refrigerator.
- One more thing that you can do is take the greens out of the plastic bag and keep it in a plastic box lined with a paper towel. Based on a locally conducted experiment, it will maximize the shelf life of your greens. Might be because the box offers an airtight environment where the bag can’t.
Pre-washed packaged bags can be a potential carrier for bacteria like E. coli. E. coli is notoriously associated with a number of health risks including food poisoning, diarrhea, vomiting etc. Therefore, for your safety, it’s best not to use any bag past its expiry date.
Follow FIFO; First In First Out. This will make sure that no food is being wasted and is being used within the safe allowed limits. But if you still have doubts discard anything past that has passed its 7 days limit.
A study analyzed samples of ready to eat salads regarding their microbiological safety. The study revealed high, unsatisfactory, total bacterial loads in all analyzed samples on the packaging date and expiry date and a very high prevalence of Salmonella spp. (67%) regardless of the selected varieties and cost categories. Therefore, it is not advisable to store this type of product for a long period (1).
Another query that might have popped up will be; ‘can’t we freeze the greens bag if they are so sensitive’? Well no. why? because like previously mentioned, the salad greens are high in moisture content. When you freeze it, that said moisture content will turn into ice crystals. This will make your greens mushy, slimy because of the moisture loss through ice crystals and give your product an unappealing wilted texture on thawing that no one enjoys in their salads.
Other FAQs about Salad that you may be interested in.
In this guide, we have answered ‘how long does an unopened bag of salad last?’ Also, some steps you can take to maximize its shelf life.
Hope you found this helpful. Any question or comment is very well welcomed.
- Arienzo, Alyexandra, et al. Microbiological quality of ready-to-eat leafy green salads during shelf-life and home-refrigeration. Foods, 2020, 9, 1421.