Reusable grocery bags can spread foodborne disease

It is important to wash reusable grocery bags regularly to decrease your risk of getting sick.

Reusable cloth grocery bags have become ever more popular in recent years as part of the “green revolution,” but have you ever thought about the potential germs you’re carrying around with you in these bags? Have you ever washed your reusable bags? A 2010 study found that only about 3 percent of people wash their bags regularly. The study also found that reusable bags contain bacteria. Although the bacteria identified in the study were not pathogenic, there were coliform bacteria and E. coli, which means there was fecal matter present, indicating the potential for illness. Furthermore, washing the bags reduced the amount of bacteria present by 99 percent.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following to keep your reusable grocery bags clean and prevent the spread of foodborne illness:

  • Wash your bags at least once every two weeks in hot water and detergent. Adding bleach to your wash cycle will also help reduce bacterial loads.
  • Use separate bags for raw fruits and vegetables, raw meat, and other products. This will help prevent cross-contamination.
  • Put raw meat products in a disposable plastic bag before placing in your reusable bag.
  • When not in use, store your bags in a cool dry place, not in your car. The warm temperature inside your car, especially in the summer, can cause rapid bacterial growth.

Never use your grocery bags for other purposes, like carrying your gym clothes for example. This is another way to prevent cross-contamination from other items

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