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The most important part of owning reusable shopping bags is remembering to take them with you to the store, but remembering to wash them regularly is a close second. A recent study showed way too many creepy-crawlies lurking in grocery totes.
Photo by x-ray delta one.
It goes without saying that fresh meat products should be wrapped separately in plastic bags for the trip home from the market, but that doesn't mean other contaminants won't find their way into your reusable bags. Bacteria, yeasts, and molds from produce, and other food items can easily transfer their way onto the welcoming interior surface of your sacks and linger there, waiting for a chance to leech onto your new purchases.
Canada's Times Colonist reports the results of a study that tested random samples of reusable grocery bags:
Of the bags tested, 64 per cent were contaminated with "some level of bacteria," about 30 per cent had "elevated bacterial counts" higher than what is considered safe for drinking water, 40 per cent of the bags had yeast or mould, and some of the bags had "an unacceptable presence of coliforms."
That's pretty gross, but fortunately, there's an easy solution. Most reusable grocery totes are made of canvas or heavy cotton-poly blend that can withstand multiple washings in hot water. It's a good idea to toss your bags in the wash after every use, then tumble dry on a low setting to keep them from getting wrinkled and balled up. Most bags cost only a dollar or two—stock up and keep extras on hand so you always have a fresh supply of bags that you can grab as you run out the door to the market.
If you've got some great tips for washing or using reusable grocery bags, share them in the comments.