Though Dubai has been cracking down on food safety across the board, it appears the country is struggling to ensure the cleanliness and safety of salad greens.
Every sample of arugula salad leaves tested from 64 different stores in Dubai and nearby Sharjah was found to be contaminated with high levels of potentially disease-causing E. coli bacteria, according to research repotted by a local Dubai newspaper, The Nation.
According to the report, the samples were taken from a variety of stores–ranging from small to supermarket chains. “Millions of [fecal] coliform cells and hundreds of thousands of E. coli bacteria were found in samples of one gram, about the size of a small life,” the paper reported.
Though most E. coli is not harmful, finding millions of cells is cause for concern, especially when you consider that just a small handful of harmful E. coli bacteria cells can cause severe illness and in rare cases, death. Those most at risk to infection are young children, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune system.
The samples in the study were analyzed by Dr. Dennis Russell, a researcher at the American University of Sharjah. “After washing the leaves three times he still found hundreds of thousands of viable [fecal] coliform microorganisms per gram, and thousands of E. coli bacteria.”
Russell’s research is published in the current issue of the Egyptian Academic Journal of Biological Sciences.
Dr. Russell told The Nation that the levels of harmful bacteria he found were higher than in a lavatory. “That sounds sensational, but it’s factual,” he said. “This food is thousands of times more contaminated.”
Russell’s theory is that the greens were grown from a farm that used liquified feces instead of compost as fertilizer.