Food Safety: Grocery Store Bags

by in Food Safety, April 22, 2012
re-usable bag
Your grocery bag may be green, but is it clean?

Many folks love their eco-friendly re-usable grocery bags. But when’s the last time you washed them? A new survey found that only 15% of Americans regularly clean their totes, putting them at a higher risk for food poisoning.

The Issue
A recent survey conducted by the Home Food Safety Program found 85% of Americans aren’t washing their re-usable grocery bags. Raw foods like meat, poultry and fish carry harmful bacteria which can linger in your totes waiting to board ready-to-eat foods like produce. The risk is even higher with the spring weather setting in as bacteria love to flourish at warm temperatures. Luckily, it’s easy to keep you and your family safe from food bugs.

What You Can Do

  • Wash those bags frequently in the washing machine (if they’re cloth) or by hand with soap and hot water. Be sure they’re dry before you tuck them away.
  • Bags with a plastic coating can also be wiped down with antibacterial spray or wipes.
  • To prevent cross-contamination from juices, place meat, poultry and fish in a separate plastic bag before placing in your re-usable bag.
  • Wash your hands after unpacking grocery bags.
  • Clean any areas that come in contact with your re-usable bag like the kitchen counter or table. This will help reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Don’t leave bags in the trunk of your car. Instead, store them in a clean, dry place.
  • Toss bags that are torn or ripped, especially the insulated ones.

Don’t Forget About….
It’s not only re-usable grocery bags that need a thorough cleaning. Water bottles and lunch boxes need to be cleaned regularly too. Lunch boxes should be cleaned after each use. Leftover food should be discarded, then use hot, soapy water and let air dry. To get rid of stinky odors, use baking powder or a touch of vinegar. To clean your re-usable water bottles, read the manufacturer’s instructions – some can’t go in the dishwasher and must be cleaned by hand.

TELL US: Do you wash your re-usable grocery bags?

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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  1. [...] Read at source website [...]

  2. [...] original post here: Food Safety: Grocery Store Bags This entry was posted in Food Network and tagged bacteria, bag, cleaned, dry, fish, food, [...]

  3. wellmiss says:

    Don’t forget to take apart things like sippy cups to clean. When I had my daycare a child would come from home every morning with a sippy cup, the one with the springs. It appears mom never cleaned it, the poor child ended up with trench mouth. Open things up and let them air dry.

  4. [...] Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building Earth Day 2012 – The Big Picture – Boston.com Food Safety: Grocery Store Bags | Healthy Eats Meet ARPA-E, the US Government's Cleantech Incubator (Video) : TreeHugger How Planet Earth [...]

  5. @ErrantCook says:

    I absolutely wash my reusable bags. I have sturdy canvas totes for groceries and other shopping, and I launder them frequently with oxygen detergent and hot water. That's my food in there, which just cost me an average of $250 per trip! No way am I putting it in dirty bags!

  6. mom in the know says:

    bleach, bleach, bleach! And sippy cups? Dissasemble them. Every time. Valve and everything. Wash in the dishwasher or in something that will tackle bacteria and mold … bleach. As for the ones that have a nozzle — use a q-tip dipped in bleach water. Air dry. Problem solved.

    • Trish says:

      I hate the sippy cups – they are essential but sooo time consuming to clean. I have found that the dishwasher just doesn't do a good enough job. They also need to be thrown out and start fresh after a while.

  7. Slow Food says:

    We often forget to keep things clean. This is a good tip as is the importance of food safety in your kitchen

  8. Amanda says:

    Don't wash them in the washing machine! I did and they didn't come out very well, unless maybe you use a delicate cycle. I will now be washing mine by hand

  9. SusanP says:

    I definitely wash my cloth bags regularly, I use a nylon lined one for meats that I spray down with an essential oil blend of clove, lemon and rosemary. I stay away from bleach that can trigger asthma attacks and is tough on the environment. Essential oils have been studied extensively for their potency against many bacteria including Ecoli and Listeria.

  10. Jo-Ann Langlois says:

    On a side note . . . the next time you go to the grocery store, take note of the small plastic hand baskets we use when buying only a few items. The last few time I went into my neighborhood store, I noticed how filthy these baskets were . . . these can be a health hazard, too!

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