Something that I never really thought about was keeping them clean. It sounds gross, but I figured I am just carrying groceries from the store to the car and from the car to our house. They get put back into the car on our next trip out. How are they getting dirty?
Well, we are putting ourselves at huge risk for cross contamination,and possibly, food poisoning. When we were dealing with the after math of Hurricane Irene, I packed up our dairy and meats from the refrigerator and took them to my parent’ house, where they had electricity. When I removed the meats, I realized that one of the packages had leaked into the bottom of the bag. I almost didn’t see it. What if I hadn’t?
I cleaned the bag with a disinfectant wipe, but I decided to do a search online to see how I should move forward. How many times had I missed the nastiness on the bottom of the bag. I searched “How to clean reusable shopping bags” and I found a study performed by The Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and The School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA that concluded that:
- Consumers almost never wash reusable bags
- Large numbers of bacteria were found in every reusable bag, but none in new bags or plastic bags
- Coliform bacteria including E. coli were found in half of the bags tested
- Bacteria were capable of growth when stored in the trunks of cars
- A potential significant risk of bacterial cross contamination exists from using reusable bags to carry groceries
- Hand or machine washing reduced the numbers of bacteria in reusable bags by >99.9%
- They are calling for printed instructions on reusable bags that they be washed between uses or the need to separate raw foods from other food products.
After reading that, I threw away all of my older bags. I am only going to buy and keep high quality insulated bags and cloth bags that can be washed in the washing machine from here on out. Is my decision a little less “green”? Initially, yes. But once I am able to acquire these specific types of bags, I shouldn’t have to purchase or retire any bags for quite a while. It’s a live and learn thing. I made the mistake once. I won’t do it again.
Does this information surprise you? have you ever suspected that reusable shopping bags may have been the culprit when someone became ill?
Jen is Wife to a wonderful man who has been the love of her life since she was 15 years old, Mother to two adorable munchkins under the age of three and an Entrepreneur who spends her free time writing and crafting. You can hear more from Jen at MamaZen, on Facebook and on Twitter.