A study by researchers at the University of Arizona found that most reusable shopping bags harbor multiple harmful bacteria. E.coli was found in over 12 percent of the tested bags. Reusable bags are good for the environment but not so good for your family's health and safety. In a quick survey at a grocery store, 97 percent of shoppers admit that they have never washed their reusable bags.
Cross-contamination happens when meats, produce and pre-cooked foods are placed in soiled bags. And, if you use the bags on occasion as a diaper bag or gym bag, even more bacteria enters the food chain. Here are some tips on proper use of the bags:
- Shopping bags should be laundered after every use when carrying food just as you would launder a kitchen towel.
- Have more than one bag and label them as Meat, Produce, Dairy, Cleaning Supplies. Double bag any items that may leak.
- Use these bags only for carrying food - no gym clothes, diapers, chemicals or gardening supplies.
- Do not leave unwashed bags in your car. The heat is a perfect incubator for bacteria to multiply.
How to Launder Reusable Bags
Some bags have labels with instructions on how to launder. For those that do not, if the bag is a woven canvas bag launder in hot water with your usual detergent. These can be line dried or put into the dryer.
For bags that are made of composite man-made fibers like nonwoven polypropylene and recycled PET, hand wash or launder on the gentle cycle. When washing, turn them inside out and pay special attention to the nooks and crannies around the seams. These bags should never be put in the dryer on high heat. Allow them to air dry. Nylon bags should be laundered the same way.
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