About a year and half ago, I wrote a blog on keeping food safe while shopping at the grocery store and getting it home safely. In the blog, washing reusable grocery bags was included with advice from the USDA stating that reusable bags should be laundered at least one a month or immediately if soiled.
Since that blog, laundering of reusable bags has come into the lime light following a non-scientific study done by a tv station in Albuquerque, NM that is now circulating on social media. This group contended that the bags they tested were heavily infested with bacteria that might be considered fecal contaminants. The fact that reusable bags can be dirty is not a new story. At study by scientists at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in 2011 confirmed such when they found that half of the bags tested in their study carried coliform bacteria with a small percentage exhibiting E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination.
While there are pros and cons to using reusable bags, cleanliness is of upmost importance. Here are some tips from Good Housekeeping on how to launder the various types of reusable bags:
Canvas Bags – toss into the washing machine with hot water and detergent, dry in the drier.
Recycled Plastic or Polyproplylene Bags – wash by hand in warm soapy water and line or air dry; pay attention to inner- and outer-seams.
Insulated Bags – since insulated bags are usually used for raw meats, dairy products, and some produce, these bags need to be cleaned after each use with a disinfecting wipe and allowed to air dry completely before storing. If there was leakage of any kind, the bag should be turned inside out exposing the liner, washed with hot, soapy water and air dry.
Nylon Bags – flip them inside out; wash them by hand or on the gentle washing cycle in warm soapy water, and air dry.
In addition to these tips, I also like to dry my bags in the sunshine if possible. When was the last time you cleaned your reusable grocery bags?