Many of us buy reusable grocery bags because they can be better for the environment, compared to disposable plastic bags.
But when’s the last time you actually gave your multi-use bags a good cleaning?
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How to clean your filthy reusable grocery bags
One research study randomly tested reusable grocery bags carried by shoppers in several cities and found the bags can be a breeding ground for dangerous food-borne bacteria.
‘Our findings suggest a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half of the bags sampled,’ said Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona professor of soil, water and environmental science and co-author of the study. ‘Furthermore, consumers are alarmingly unaware of these risks and the critical need to sanitize their bags on a weekly basis.’
Bacteria levels in the reusable bags tested were high enough to cause serious health problems or even death, especially in young children, the study found.
What’s even more alarming — most people don’t seem to know that this is even a problem.
According to the 2010 study, 97% of those interviewed never washed or bleached their reusable bags, which are two effective ways to kill bacteria.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says there are a few things you can do to prevent your risk of food poisoning.
Here are the top five safety tips for reusable grocery totes:
- Place fresh or frozen raw meat, poultry and fish in separate totes from produce and ready-to-eat foods.
- Wash your grocery tote frequently in the washing machine or by hand with hot, soapy water.
- Clean all areas where you place your totes, such as kitchen counter or table, to reduce cross-contamination.
- When shopping, put meat, poultry and fish in separate plastic bags before placing in the tote. This will help prevent juices from leaking and contaminating your reusable bags and food.
- Store totes in a clean, dry location. Avoid leaving totes in the trunk of a vehicle.
Here’s another idea: Consider buying reusable totes in different colors, using separate bags for meat, dairy, produce and prepared foods to prevent cross-contamination.