Sulfates in pre-washed salad?

I heard recently from someone that they clean pre-washed salad by using sulfates. I haven't been able to find any good information however... does anyone know about this? Also, IF they do this, is it a global thing? (I live in Europe, not the US, but I heard about this while in the US on a trip.)



HalfPint May 30, 2017
It's probably sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is found in a lot of household products (as well as industrial products) like soap, toothpaste, shampoo, cosmetics, shaving foam, etc. There's some controversy (more of an urban myth) about it being carcinogenic but has been debunked. It is a skin irritant (like most detergents) depending on concentration and duration of exposure. In Europe and the US, SLS is listed as an skin irritant, not a carcinogen. It's in A LOT of stuff that we use.

It is likely the sulfate (in whichever iteration it might be) is a surfactant (similar to soap) used to remove dirty and stuff that water alone would not be able to remove. SLS is a really good degreaser and emulsifier which is why it is in a lot of household and industrial cleaning products. Used as instructed, it's perfectly safe. This is only my educated guess (BS in Chemistry, 8 years R&D experience). Commercial salad producers are a bit tight lipped about how their salads are 'triple washed', so I don't know how other countries wash their packaged vegetables. Likely a proprietary process that they would rather not share with competitors. This may also be the reason why you are having a hard time finding information specifically about this.

Don't confuse sulfates with sulfites. Two different compounds. There's no indication that you need to avoid sulfates or sulfur if you have a sulfite allergy.

In whatever form you decide to buy your salad, learn the proper washing techniques. Sounds silly but it's eye-opening what we currently do that is not really safe.
Sam1148 May 30, 2017
I'm sure the submitter means "Sulfites"''

It was a big thing about salad bars in the 80's and 90's. Lettuce was rinsed with sulfites water (in very low concentrations). To prevent browning. Eventually it was banned for giving 'false freshness' when used to rinse meats. If it's more than 10ppm it has to be labeled 'contains sulfites'.
But it's okay to use it as a rinse agent for non meat things...and I'm fine with that.

However, if you want a rinse agent for fruit and salad. Invest in a bag of Citric Acid. And use table spoon of that to a gallon of water as a finishing rinse. The people that are really into sprouting use that to rinse sprouts to prevent the Bactria and mold for their sprouts.

Leith D. May 29, 2017
I haven't heard of that and I'm allergic to sulfites, the chemical they used to use to preserve lettuce. I don't think they're allowed use it anymore. I occasionally use pre-washed salad without getting sick.
jessicamclement May 29, 2017
Thanks for the replies ! I knew about some of the other issues (although not all mentioned here). Yes, it seems it's best to stay away, but sometimes life demands a few hacks for the busier weeks !
Nancy May 28, 2017
I don't know about sulfates in pre-washed lettuce greens, but I did some research a while back on them in general and found them undesirable for several reasons. Not sure that this applies globally, but worth checking:
1) often already 2 weeks old by the time they reach your grocery store
2) use of chlorine and lots of water to wash them (so there might be an undesirable taste, waste of water resources)
3) they often are dirty (carry bacteria, etc) not really very clean after all.
4) they usually cost more than plain, naked greens.

In light of all this, I avoid buying them as no bargain and likely not safe or good quality to eat.
Hope this helps.
BerryBaby May 28, 2017
I agree. It seems every time I've tried bagged greens, they have an old refrigerator taste and smell. Fresh is much better IMO. BB
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