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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