Lots of cities around the United States are banning the use of plastic shopping bags supplied by the store and some people have just decided to make the switch for personal reasons. Either way, this could be a double edged sword.
Sure making the switch to reusable shopping bags are eliminating a lot of trash, especially the bags that are thrown away and end up as side-of-the-road debris, they get stuck in trees and fly around city streets. But the one thing that the experts in California and Arizona have found is that the reusable bags that you are using could be causing you to get sick. According to a new study by Dr. Ryan Sinclair, nearly 50% contain coliform bacteria and up to 12% of all reusable shopping bags contain E Coli. While that is a fairly low percentage, it means you have a greater than 1 in 10 chance of getting sick from the bags you are using at the store week after week.
Something else to consider, the study showed that the bacteria in the reusable bags grew 10-fold if left in the car for 2 hours, which contained meat juice. While the average person who shops, normally, goes straight home after visiting the store, there are occasions where a delay can’t be avoided.
Granted those are scare statistics, but that does not mean you should ditch the reusable bag, if you enjoy or believe in using them. What it does mean is that you need to really consider what you are doing before and after you shop. Not many people think about cleaning the bags when they take the groceries out and put them away. Like most things, you put away the groceries and immediately put away the bag. Less clutter right? True, but if you took a moment to clean or wash the bag, you severely cut down on your health risks.
But wait, there’s more you can do…
When you are done shopping and in the check out line, consider cross-contamination. According to FoodSafety.gov, make sure you are separating the foods properly and have the number of bags you need to keep the meats, dairy, household cleaners and fruits/vegetables separated. Cross-contamination will cause a lot of food-born illnesses.
The CDC, FDA and Food Safety and Inspection Service suggest the following:
Wrap raw meat packages in a separate, disposable plastic bag, and throw out the bag as soon as you get home.
Don’t use reusable grocery bags to carry anything other than groceries (a.k.a., don’t make your grocery bag your gym bag, too).
Avoid storing reusable bags in the car or another hot place, as bacteria spreads more quickly here; store in a cool, dry place instead.