Tuesday, March 19, 2019 6:51 PM

Why You Need To Wash Your Grocery Bags (And How!)

Is this you? A joint research report on reusable shopping bags found that:

  • 97 percent of shoppers never washed their bags
  • 50 percent of the bags contain bacteria
  • 12 percent contained dangerous E.coli
  • Most bags were cross contaminated (meats, raw produce and pre-cooked food)
What does this mean? Food poisonings have increased after laws required consumers to grocery shop with reusable bags!
It doesn’t matter if they are plastic or fabric – you need to wash your bags or be at greater risk for food poisoning and other diseases. Reusable bags should be washed regularly. They can carry pathogens – like yeast, mold or bacteria that can harm you. 

Cleaning Tips for Different Shopping Bag Types

Fabric or canvas bags – put these in your washing machine in hot water with detergent.  You can even put them in the dryer for added ease to disinfect. 
Nylon or plastic bags – you can safely wash these by hand in warm water – make sure you scrub any seams on the bag where food could accumulate. Hang them up where they can drip dry.
Insulated bags – These are most likely used for perishables like meats so it’s imperative you clean these each time. Wipe these types of bags down with a disinfecting wipe – especially after each use.

How to Properly Reuse Shopping Bags

  • Just like a kitchen towel, shopping bags should be washed after each use carrying food – especially meats and raw produce. Bags that hold cleaning supplies or items you do not consume can be used a few times before washing.
  • Label your bags for meat, raw produce, cleaning supplies, etc., and only put those items in those bags.
  • Don’t carry gym clothes, diapers, chemicals or any other item in your reusable bags that could cross contaminate your food.
  • Soiled bags left in your hot car can cause bacteria to multiply.
  • Remove any inserts your bags may have and clean those separately. 
  • Consider purchasing bags made from hemp – they have natural anti-mold/antimicrobial properties that might help keep you safer. 
For more information about preventing foodborne illness or safety, log on to www.askkaren.gov or www.pregunteleakaren.gov for questions in Spanish