Reusable shopping bags: proceed with caution
While convenient and certainly green in terms of bag disposal, the reusable grocery bag can prove very dangerous if not cleaned properly after use
The study tested 87 reusable bags obtained at random from grocery shoppers in
“I was surprised to learn through this study that only 3 percent of shoppers surveyed actually said they washed their reusable bags between uses,” says Gerba. “More surprising were the numbers of people who stated they used the bags not only for food shopping, but also to transport clothing and other products to and from work and the gym.
“There has been a growing movement to use reusable bags when we shop, but without proper washing, these bags can expose our families to bacteria that can cause illness,” adds Gerba.
Reusable bags are particularly susceptible to contamination since remnants of meats and dairy products which may seep out of packaging remain in bags unless washed out, resulting in bacterial growth. Once subjected to the heat of a car trunk, these bacteria quickly multiply.
“Washing bags is the only way to protect your family. It will remove 99.9 percent of germs. Although it may be a nuisance, washing must be done to ensure your food is safe to eat,” adds Gerba. “I’d recommend washing it with hot, soapy water after each use.
“If you choose to use a reusable bag for grocery shopping, it’s important to keep your meats in separate plastic bags, use separate reusable bags for food items, and wash them between uses,” concludes Gerba.An abstract of the study, Assessment of the Potential for Cross-contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags, can be found on the International Association for Food Production website.