Reusable Grocery Bags, Good; Dirty Reusable Bags, Bad
As reported by Vince Bond Jr. in the Columbus Dispatch on June 26, a recent study conducted by environmental-health professors at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California found that 97% if people toting reusable bags didn't wash them regularly.
As a result, more than half of the 84 bags tested harbored coli-form and heterotrophic bacteria. E. coli was found in 12% of the bags.
Sinclair said that nearly 99% of E. coli strains aren't harmful. The harmful E. coli strains were not found in any of the bags, however, the germs discovered on the bags can still make people sick.
Ryan Sinclair, a researcher at Loma Linda and co-author of the study, said: "We're so used to disposable bags that we don't think to wash reusable ones."
For those who stash the reusable bags in the trunk of the car for convenience, please know that the high temperature in the trunk helps bacteria grow more efficiently.
Here's what consumers with reusable bags should do:
1) Be careful to separate raw from other food products.
2) Avoid using the reusable bags for anything other than grocery shopping to avoid cross contamination. Soil from produce and blood from meat products can transfer from the bag to anything you carry in the bag, so avoid using the bags for carrying books, gym clothes, or anything else apart from groceries.
3) Avoid putting the bags with meat or produce in car trunks because the higher temperatures promote bacteria growth. Place the loaded bags on the floor behind the driver's seat or behind the front passenger's seat.
4) Wash the canvas bags regularly even though they look clean.
Being eco-friendly by using reusable bags shouldn't make any of us sick, so wash those canvas reusable bags and practice safe food handling at all times.