Reusable Grocery Bags Crawling with Bacteria

Yikes! Your reusable grocery bag might contain fecal matter with E. coli, salmonella, and a wide assortment of other not-so-friendly bacteria!

University of Arizona researchers discovered “a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria, the infamous E. coli, which were detected in half of the bags sampled,” says Charles Gerba, U of A professor and co-author of the study.

And just when we were proud of ourselves for being green….germs are lurking!

A grocery bag put into a hot trunk is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria from fresh meat may cross contaminate with other foods and stick around long after the food is gone, hiding in the walls and in the seams and folds of the bag.

These types of bacteria are extremely dangerous for young children, who are “especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses.” Salmonella, for instance. The study included 84 randomly selected grocery bags from shoppers in Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. “Bacteria levels were significant enough to cause a wide range of serious health problems and even death.”

Death!!! As an environmentally friendly consumer, I want to reuse my grocery bags and save the world from unnecessary plastic, but as a mom, I want to make sure my family’s health is not at risk.

Do your bags look or smell bad? Like sour milk, for instance, or spoiled meat? There’s a clue. The recommended solution: Wash your bags after each use. Bleach them, in fact. As a busy mom, I find this not feasible. Don’t we all have enough laundry already? More water and detergent down the drain is not a green-living solution.

The study, including work done at The University of Arizona and at Loma Linda U, did not speculate on where all this bacteria comes from. Is the store really dripping with sewage? Or does it come from unclean hands, including your own?

Not everyone takes this study at face value, since it was funded by The American Chemistry Council, which also works with businesses that make and use plastic.

But the scare is there. Protect your family. Make sure the surfaces that touch your food are clean and safe.

The best way to truly protect yourself and your family is to once a week wash the bags in with your normal laundry with color safe bleach and let air dry. By air drying you can kill many bacteria!