Meat – Salad packaged with raw meat: is it safe


Sometimes I see in supermarkets (in Italy) packages in which rocket salad is sold together with raw beef, like in this picture:

enter image description here

This is clearly meant to be prepared in the form of tagliata con rucola, an Italian dish made with beefsteak cut in stripes and rocket:

enter image description here

As you can see, the salad is normally served raw with tagliata. The supermarkets seem OK with that, but this practice triggers my food safety alert: is it safe to consume salad that has been in contact with raw meat? Should I worry about eating it?

EDIT: further information:

  • these packages are found in the refrigerator aisle.
  • the bottom label says (among other things) "store at 0–4 degrees Celsius [32-39 Fahrenheit] — cook before eating". It is not clear from the wording if this warning applies to the salad as well.
  • the label in the top right says "20% discount — the marked price already includes discount". It doesn't specify if it is discounted for quick sale or for other reasons. In any case, I have also seen regular packages without the discount tag, and with the current day marked as packaging date.
  • It is not customary here to put salad or other edible items as decoration — I have never seen this done with other fresh food on sale.
  • upon request, full translation of the white sticker. The notes in brackets are mine.

Il gigante [supermarket name] – the fresh food specialists. Corso Marche [address of the supermarket]

Net Wt 0.354 kg price 4.43 EUR

tare 0.032 EUR/Kg 12.50

prepackaged on: 04 August 2014

Tagliata con rucola [name of the dish, see picture above]

Meat preparation NC16 [not 100% sure about the code, it's blurry. No idea what it means, I assume it's some bureaucratic category for the meat]

Ingredients: bovine meat, rucola, sunflower oil, salt

Store at 0-4 degrees [32-39F]. To be consumed after cooking. Cooking suggestions: in pan, 3 minutes each side. In oven 175 degrees [350F] for 30 minutes. Produced and prepackaged for immediate sale by "Il gigante", Turin.

  • Note that I did not take this picture myself; this one comes from the internet. I can take a similar one the next time I visit my local supermarket, but it's probably going to be 7-10 days from now.

Best Answer

What you're looking at is called (in the US) "cross contamination". You have a food generally considered "unsafe" (beef) that is coming into contact with a food generally considered "safe" (salad greens).

This contact makes the greens "unsafe" to consume raw.

Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, utensils, etc., if they are not handled properly. This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood, so keep these foods and their juices away from already cooked or ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce.

The rule in the US is to always keep these products away from each other so that the "safe" foods stay safe.

The only way to make the greens safe to eat is to cook them, thereby killing off the bacteria that may have been transferred to them in the juices of the meat.