The Stiftung Warentest consumer watchdog tested 19 ready-to-eat salads, including two organic products marketed specifically at children. The salads were tested either on their use-by date or on the day before.
Not a single product was rated either "very good" or "good". Ten were described as "satisfactory," while eight were categorized as of "sufficient" quality. One organic salad had already gone off and was rated "poor."
In nine cases, the level of yeast and mould was over guideline amounts, which the organisation said could cause problems for people with sensitive stomachs.
While no traces of salmonella, listeria or enterohemorrhagic E.Coli (EHEC) were discovered, yeast contamination was widespread among the products.
The majority of the salads were found to "not or barely contain pesticides." But one salad marketed as organic and sold by the Rewe supermarket chain contained the highest level of pesticides of all the products tested – so high in fact that it exceeded those allowed by the "bio" classification.
The organisation advised people to wash salad before consumption, even if it was marketed as "ready to eat." It also recommended that consumers buy and eat bagged salad a few days before its use-by date. Writing in its test magazine however, it said eating ready-to-eat salads was still better than eating no salad at all.
But it advised pregnant women, people with weak immune systems, young children and older people to avoid ready-to-eat salads entirely.