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The meal: bagged salad

In this video you’ll be introduced to the first case study: bagged salad, to highlight the necessary food safety steps needed from farm to fork.
Ready to eat salads or bagged salads have become very popular with consumers as they’re easy to use. They can be shaken from the bag, dressed, and served much more easily than having to prepare all the different leaves separately. However, the simplicity of consuming a bag salad does not mean that it’s a simple food to prepare. In fact, ready to eat salads undergo a number of processes which turn them into quite a different product compared to the starting fresh ingredients. So how can consumers trust they are safe to eat? As an example, we will investigate the production process behind the salad in our meal. The production of bagged salad starts in dedicated agricultural areas where the growing conditions are tightly controlled.
Salad ingredients are grown across the world. However, wherever it is grown, the supply chain needs to be short, as the product is highly perishable. Salad ingredients can be grown in open agricultural fields, or in glass houses, sometimes using advanced technologies to ensure optimal growing conditions. And advanced system of modern salad production is the use of hydroponics. In this system, the plants are growing without soil in glass houses with their roots suspended in a water-based nutrient solution. In all systems, the growers are careful to use water that is free from contamination with microorganisms and chemicals. Once the salad plants are ready to harvest, they are collected– either mechanically or by hand– and put carefully into boxes.
These boxes are then transported as soon as possible to a processing facility. On arrival, the salads are stored at around 2 to 4 degrees centigrade to prevent microbial growth or deterioration of the leaves. The salads don’t stay in storage for long, and are quickly sent to the processing line, where they’re inspected, sorted, and trimmed. The trimmed salads are then washed, cut, and sliced, and then rewashed. At this stage, it is critical to use non-contaminated water. So companies usually use sanitised water to minimise risk to the consumer. Some salads undergo a further microbial treatment using weak organic acids or natural anti-microbial compounds, such as bacteriocins as an extra safety measure, as well as to provide a longer shelf life.
The salads are then rinsed again before drying. The production line then mixes different types of salad ingredients to create the final product, which is then packaged and sealed in an oxygen-reduced atmosphere to minimise bacterial growth, and to prolong shelf life. The bagged salads complete the production line by passing through a metal detector to eliminate any bags that may contain any physical risks for the consumer, such as small pieces of metal that come from the equipment. The turnaround time in the salad processing facilities is usually very short to make sure that the product reaches the supermarket shelves in good condition, and with the longest remaining shelf life possible.
The bagged salads are boxed up for storage, transported, and distributed to retail outlets where they’re kept refrigerated at all times. The whole production process is carefully designed to ensure this highly perishable food is provided to consumers in good condition, free from microbial contamination, and without any chemical residues. Bagged salad producers are very conscious of these safety issues, and make as much effort as possible to minimise risks for the consumer. The principles of good agricultural practise are respected during production. And in addition, microbiological and chemical analyses are conducted throughout the process as a further safety measure. There are also regular checks made by independent food safety inspectors throughout. Bagged salads clearly provide a convenient option for the consumer.
They are as fresh as if bought straight from the farm. But a lot of preparation, processing, and checking has already been done to ensure consumers can trust it is safe to eat.

In this video you’ll be introduced to the first case study: bagged salad. Ready to eat and with minimal preparation required, bagged salad has fast become popular among consumers. However, the journey from farm to fork for your fresh salad is far from minimal.

How does salad reach you in good condition? Take a closer look at the importance of food safety that’s required throughout the production process, and explore the stakeholders, and the laws, regulations and checks put in place that ensures your bagged salad reaches you in good condition.

Please note this video is used for illustrative purposes only.
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Trust in Our Food: Understanding Food Supply Systems

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