Possible Dangers From Bacteria In Reusable Grocery Bags

By Delialah Falcon. May 7th 2016

Many consumers are shying away from plastic bags when doing their grocery shopping and are switching over to reusable grocery bags. Reusable grocery bags have become very popular in recent years, and are now used by a large portion of grocery shoppers. Some people view reusable grocery bags as way to do their part to help the environment, while others enjoy the versatility of the bags.

Benefits Of Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags can be beneficial in many ways, including:

  • Using reusable grocery bags can eliminate the use of plastic bags (reusing just 6 bags per week can lead to a lifetime reduction of 20,000 disposable bags).
  • Reusable bags can transport almost twice as much as disposable plastic bags because they are much sturdier.
  • Most reusable grocery bags have long handles that are made from soft fabric, which makes them easy to carry in the hands or over the shoulder.
  • The majority of reusable grocery bags are made from fabric that is environmentally friendly, as well as non-toxic and non-allergenic.
  • Many grocery stores now provide credits to shoppers who use reusable grocery bags.
  • Most reusable bags are lined with a hard insert at the bottom of the bag that allows the bag to stand up straight. This provides additional stability and can prevent bags from tipping over and spilling food.

Bacteria In Reusable Bags

Unfortunately, there is a down side to using reusable grocery bags instead of disposable grocery bags. In fact, using reusable grocery bags can be downright hazardous to your health. This is because a handful of recent studies have found that reusable bags can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria such as Coliform and E. coli, as well as noroviruses. These germs can live for extended periods of time on the inside of reusable bags. When your food is placed in those bags, it comes into contact with the bacteria and can make you ill.

How Bacteria Develops

Bacteria can develop inside reusable grocery bags for a variety of reasons. If meat is not sealed properly, small leaks can occur. The meaty juices can then leak out into the bag and contaminate other foods. After the foods have been emptied, the juices remain in the bag, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to develop.

It is not just meats that can contaminate these bags. Many individuals who are extremely careful about properly caring for meat often overlook the other potential hazards in the foods that they purchase. For example, residue from dirty cans, boxes, packages and bottles can all collect at the bottom and along the sides of reusable bags. Residue from fruits and vegetables can be equally hazardous.

Many people store their reusable grocery bags in their cars so they will always have them handy and available when they visit the grocery store. The problem with this is that all of that residue and contamination from meat juices is left inside the bag, festering in the heat of the car, sometimes for several days.

How To Make Reusable Bags Safer

There are some very simple steps that can be taken to eliminate bacteria and make reusable grocery bags much safer. These steps include:

  • Wipe out bags using a cloth and some cleaning solution after each use
  • Dry bags thoroughly
  • Wash bags on gentle cycle in the washing machine at least once per month
  • Always place meat in plastic bags and keep it separate from other foods
  • Only use your food bags for food, not for other items such as diapers, gym clothes or toys
  • Avoid storing reusable bags in the trunk of your car, which can promote bacteria growth

Choosing Reusable Shopping Bags

There are many different types of reusable grocery bags, and not all are created equally. Depending on the type of bag and where it is purchased, you may find that the quality of different bags varies.

Some reusable grocery bags, such as those made form polyester, require more energy to create than would be needed to make a few hundred disposable plastic grocery bags. If you are looking to conserve energy and resources, choose a reusable bag that is constructed of organic cotton.

In addition to be a green resource, organic cotton bags are free from dangerous chemicals and pesticides, which means your food will not be exposed to such toxins when transported in these bags. Plastic bags have been known to leech these harmful chemicals into the food that is stored inside the bags.

Choose a reusable bag that is heavyweight and sturdy. Make sure it is strong enough to transport your food without breaking or tearing. Try to select a bag that will withstand a lot of use and not break under normal wear and tear conditions. You want your bag to last for a long time, so make sure you choose a material that will hold up well in the washing machine.

Be sure to pay attention to where the bag originated from. It is best to purchase reusable grocery bags that were manufactured in the United States. This will cut down on the amount of energy that is needed to transport the bags across national lines. The more local the bags are, the less energy that is required for their transport.

Keep these things in mind to prevent the dangers of reusable grocery bags, while you do your part to help the environment. Happy shopping!


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