LONDON, September 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The Fresh Prepared Salads Producer Group (FPSPG), which supplies washed and ready to eat salad packs to all the major UK supermarkets, supported by the CFA and FSA, completely refutes suggestions in the press that prepared salads are unsafe to eat.

At the same time, Prof. Bill Keevil, professor of environmental health care at the University of Southampton, who was at the conference in Aberdeen where the salad research which sparked the stories was presented, said: "I was extremely disappointed by the quality of the data presented and its interpretation. We have known for a long time the various mechanisms that bacteria can use to attach itself to a range of surfaces, including plants. This is not new."

The FPSPG, said in a statement: "Our products sold as 'washed and ready to eat' are just that. We have long recognised that to produce a safe-to-eat salad one needs safe-to-eat produce off the field. To achieve that, we strive to ensure that dangerous microbes do not get the opportunity to contact our crops - such that hypotheses as to how they initially adhere are irrelevant. The UK prepared salads sector has an unrivalled safety record and employs stringent controls, described as 'excellent' by the FSA - not necessarily the case elsewhere in the world. There has not been a confirmed outbreak associated with prepared salad since 2001 in the UK.

Research by Professor Gadi Frankel of Imperial College, London which shows how some Salmonella bacteria use their flagella to attach themselves to salad leaves and other vegetables has been widely reported in the media. Whilst Salmonella contamination of any food is a potential health risk, current media reports arising from this latest research in relation to pre-packed salads are inaccurate and misleading.

The risk of bacterial contamination to salads (prepared or not) is managed by the way in which the crop is grown and by the wash process used. Stringent controls - unlike those seen elsewhere in the world - are employed in the UK retail leafy salad supply chain to minimise the potential for contamination. The controls cover: history of use of the land, quality of seeds, quality of irrigation water and controls on the use of organic fertilisers and these are rigorously enforced by responsible food manufacturers and very demanding retailers. Consequently, the highest standards of field hygiene are employed where crops are grown. The use of raw animal manure is strictly banned from all salad farms as indeed is the use of water that may be contaminated by animal manures. Where properly composted animal manure is used as a fertiliser - as our members growing organic salads are encouraged to do - the composting process is rigorously checked and the compost tested for microbiological safety before application.

Wash processes used are controlled and effective - this view is supported by many expert scientists and articulated by the FSA. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that re-washing a prepared salad will do any good at all - and it's even possible that exposing the salad leaf to the 'kitchen sink' will increase the food safety risk. Indeed, the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (FSA) has recently determined that re-washing is unlikely to remove any contamination remaining on the produce after the manufacturing process.

Safety is the chilled food industry's number one priority as demonstrated by the fact that over 2.5 billion packs of chilled prepared salads have been consumed safely in the UK over the past 10 years.

In a climate where the Government and health professionals are encouraging the consumption of fruit and vegetables, it's unhelpful at best - and potentially irresponsible - to mislead consumers about the safety of their food. Fresh prepared bagged salads represent a cost-effective, tasty, low fat, low salt, low sugar and convenient way to eat more healthily."

For more information or to discuss in further detail please contact Helen Parker or Wendy Akers on +44-208-892-5665, Mob: +44-7747-605-881/+44-7795-595091 or email: Prof. Keevil can be contacted on: +44-7974-947-093