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Launder Your Reusable Grocery Bags, or Get Sick?

Posted Aug 30 2010 11:00pm


It’s always something!

I use resusable totes all the time. I LOVE TOTE BAGS! My mom says, “You have too many tote bags!” I say, “Can you ever have too many tote bags?!” :)

Now, the problem with tote bags is that they get dirty. Reusable grocery bags are great for the environment, but reusing them over and over, throwing them in a lump in the hot car and using them for many purposes is going to gather e coli and all kinds of bacteria. That’s not including just what you and others add to the bags when you touch them and put them on counters at the store, at home, on the floor, in the car, on a bus, at the bus stop . . . you get the picture.

Bags used for food can also gather Salmonella and Listeria creating the potential to make you sick. Or, if they don’t make you sick immediately, these little creatures can cause disease in people with weakened immune systems and weaken your immune system.

However… food-safety expert Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist at Consumers Union says, “A person eating an average bag of salad greens gets more exposure to these bacteria than if they had licked the insides of the dirtiest bag. These bacteria can be found lots of places, so no need to go overboard.”

But Hansen notes that there are some reminders to good health. “It’s easy to spread bacteria from meat, fish, or poultry to other foods – in your kitchen or in your grocery bags. So we do think it’s wise to carry those items in disposable bags. Reusable bags are fine for most everything else, but it’s a good idea to wash them occasionally.”

So, do this: 

1. Wash bags regularly in the wash machine or with soap by hand (no bleach necessary) reducing bacteria by 99.9 percent. 

2. When bagging your goodies, make sure to separate raw foods from other food products.

3. Make sure to use plastic of some sort to bag raw meat to guard against leaking. Have a few plastic bags that are washed well after each use and reuse them in your bag collection.

4. If your bags are accumulating, go through them and decide which ones you really use, keep them in good repair and clean, store or let go of the others.

Happy reusable grocery bag bagging!

Check out my post from last fall on cleaning your purse for your health too!

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