What’s in Your Bag?

There are many ways to save money at the grocery store and these days one of those ways is to purchase reusable grocery bags. To help save the environment and encourage the use of reusable bags many stores are now charging for plastic carrier bags. To save money and save on extra waste purchasing a reusable bag is a good idea but could they be making you sick?There is one disadvantage to using reusable bags when doing your shopping. How often have you washed your bags? Have you paid attention to what you’re putting in certain bags? Is there a chance of bacteria growth or cross contamination in your bags? Like me, you’ve probably been packing your grocery bags without considering any of these questions. It has been brought to my attention and should be brought to your attention that you could be making yourself and your family sick by not paying attention to what you’re doing when packing your groceries.

Some of the food that we put in our bags leak, spill or sweat onto the inside of the bag. Without being washed or cleaned regularly the bags become a breeding ground for bacteria. There is also the risk of cross contamination when you put meat, produce or other groceries in the same bag. A recent American study found that most bags will contain bugs, coliform bacteria and even E.coli.

It is important to wash your reusable bags regularly. With each bag being made with a different material it’s hard to know how to clean them. Cotton or hemp bags can be put in the washing machine and are dryer safe. Some polyester bags are machine washable but make sure to check the label before doing so. If you’re unsure of the material of your bag the best thing is to hand wash it. Fill your sink with antibacterial soapy water. Soak the bag for a few minutes and scrub areas if needed. Pay attention to the corners and seems where bacteria may be trapped. Wring out the bag and hang to dry. Make sure the bag is completely dry inside and out before using it again.

You can also use antibacterial spray cleaners on non woven polypropylene bags but again make sure to turn the bag inside out and clean every nook and cranny. Allow the bag to dry thoroughly before reusing it.

Once your bags have been cleaned change your packing system and label your bags. Use one for meat, one for produce and yet another for packaged goods. By labelling the bags or using distinguishable bags for each type of food you’ll know which to use when packing your groceries and will therefore prevent cross contamination. It will also make washing the bags easier because you’ll know that you won’t have to wash the bags used for packaged goods and can focus on the meat bag in particular. Even with the use of separate bags you’ll still want to wash your produce before consumption. Other healthy food preparation practices include using different cutting boards for the different types of food and wiping down all surfaces with antibacterial cleaner. These simple practices will help keep you and your family healthy.

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