Do the new “green bags” really keep food fresh?

The “green bags” are designed for fruits and vegetables that ripen by the production of the plant hormone, ethylene. Ethylene gas is produced in copious quantities by certain fruits, most notably bananas. As the concentration of ethylene gas increases in an enclosed environment, the fruit ripens faster. Removal of ethylene helps keep fruits from over-ripening quickly. The green bags are made of a polymer that allows the escape of the gas while keeping others, and some of them actually use additives to the film to absorb other gases that promote ripening or deterioration. 

The green bags do work for certain types of produce. Some caveats–the shelf life is extended as long as the product is very dry (mold growth appears to be a problem in damp produce). Also, the bags have a shelf life and can only be reused 10 times. If you intend to eat a product quickly, say strawberries, it might not make economic sense to use the green bag when normal plastic film would work.   

-contributed by Sam Beattie, ISU Food Safety Extension Specialist

15 thoughts on “Do the new “green bags” really keep food fresh?

  1. I have had wonderful experience with the green bags. I live alone and using up produce for me was always a problem, I always wasted some. I am sold on the green bags because I don’t have that problem now.

    For strawberries, I take the plastic wrap or the plastic lid off of the carton and set the whole plastic basket/container of unwashed berries in the green bag. This seems to at least double the refrigerator life of the strawberries.

    I tested the bag with a head of iceberg lettuce that had actually started to be less than perfect. I removed the outer leaves that were brown and stuck the remainder of the head in the green bag and it kept well for several days.

    I also put bagged lettuce in the green bag, once I open the bagged lettuce I fold the bag close and just put the whole bag in the green bag. It was the first time I didn’t throw any bagged lettuce out.

    One thing I do to help the green bags last longer is I try to put produce in them in a dish or on a plate.. keeps the green bag clean.

    I think I’ve saved enough money on the green bags by not throwing away food that I would have wasted before.

    From Bev in Woodbury County

  2. What about the properties of the green tinted bags you get in the produce section of grocery stores now. Do they have the same gas-releasing properties?

  3. Hi Glenda – This would depend on the products being provided by your grocery store. Most of the plastic bags available in grocery stores do not have any special properties. You would be best off asking a staff member at the store. Thanks!

  4. Hi Audrey – This varies by the brand of the bag. For most you just use a twist tie to close the bag.

  5. I’m told you can also successfully freeze produce in the “green bags”—what say you. How could this work freezing fresh blueberries?

  6. Hi Judy – I have not tried that before, so I can’t speak from experience. The product information from the manufacturer does not describe freezing as one of the uses. Generally, when freezing produce, we would recommend a heavy duty freezer bag.

  7. This would depend on how ripe the bananas are when you buy them and when you want to eat them. Generally, bananas will not continue to ripen in the refrigerator, so if you buy green bananas and want them to ripen before eating, leave them on the counter.

  8. There definitely is a issue with a large amount of mold growing very quickly if anything is even slightly wet. I had to throw out almost everything I purchased after washing it and putting it in the green bags because it was covered in mold within a day! I guess the best way is to only put unwashed dry items in them and wash as you use.

  9. Tracy-If you’d like to clean the produce and put it in baggies or containers so it is ready to go for a quick snack, after washing it you can pat it dry with a paper towel. That will help prevent mold growth. Some soft fruits, like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries do tend to do better if washed just before eating.

  10. Hi Elizabeth – We would encourage you to check out the green bags for yourself as part of your experiment.

  11. I use green bags all the time, and I love them. Saves me lots of money. I put the date on the bottom of the green bags for 2 reasons; 1) to count the times I have used them, manufacturer say 10 times; 2) I can get a month out of my produce. I usually put a paper towel in the green bag, add my produce then squeeze out all the air and I usually get a month unless I have eaten up my produce first.

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