Reusable Bags Risk: Cross-contaminated food

By Peter Chubb - Jul 6, 2010

Whenever you go to your local store you are asked if you have your own bags or whether you have reusable bags. I have five bags like this that I keep in my car for when I go shopping, but I did not know that I should wash them due to fears of food becoming cross-contaminated.

This certainly makes sense, just something that I have never thought about. In a recent study conducted by University of Arizona and Loma Linda University, they learned that these reusable bags had huge amounts of bacteria in them. The worrying thing is, this is all common sense – just none of us have ever thought about it.

Jim Steinberg, from Whittier Daily News says that this is bad timing as huge debates have been going on to ban single-use plastic or paper bags for these environmentally friendly ones. There are fears that this could lead to high numbers of illnesses due to the spread of harmful bacteria.

If these bags are kept in the trunk and not cleaned within two hours, then bacteria can multiple 10-fold. I can hear the sound of car trunks being opened and slammed shut right now.

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  • EllenO

    Not one person has gotten sick yet from cross-contaminated bags. Please understand that the wind beneath the wings of this health scare is the Plastics Council. Common sense would say "wash your bags" so thanks for reiterating that for your audience. But is this a reason to switch back to paper or plastic? NOPE.

    • Lori

      I have worked at a grocery chain for over 31 years. Believe me the reusable bags are contaminated with dog, cat and horse hair, cat urine, beetles, dirty diapers with droppings at the bottom on the bag, hypodermic needles, mold, dirty socks, garbage, dirty street pop bottles. I could go on and on.
      Even when you bring it to the customer's attention to WASH their BAGS, they don't. I think customers should bag their own groceries, into their contaminated bags, away from my work area. I can't believe people want their food amongst filth. It's interesting watching people place their tomatoes next to a bag saturated with cat urine.