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Reusable Grocery Bags Turn Into Reusable Danger

For just under two dollars, shoppers can purchase a reusable grocery bag and use it time and time again; but if those bags are not cleaned and properly cared for, scientists say it’s only a matter of time before bacteria can build up.

We wanted to see for ourselves, so we purchased three of those bags. One for produce, one for meat products and one for canned goods. After just one quick shopping trip, we dropped the bags off at the Teton Microbiology Laboratory where they were tested for a variety of bacteria.

They seem harmless enough, but the problem lies deep within the bag itself after it’s empty. Placing produce, meat and other foods in these reusable bags without proper sanitation in between shopping trips can turn them into reusable danger.

After our shopping trip, each bag was tested for a variety of organisms and the results were surprising.

Bacteria covered the bags.

“I’m really not surprised to see this in this particular amount, especially in the produce,” said Angela Huett, a microbiologist. “It just means that micro-organisms can grow in grocery bags and if these micro-organisms can grow in there, so can the bad kind.”

Now imagine if you eat your fruits and vegetables without washing them, or worse, you combine your produce and meat products into one bag. While the amount of bacteria inside the bags may seem daunting, there is a way around the problem.

If you’re one of those shoppers who takes advantage of these reusable grocery bags, scientists say it’s best to have a different one for each category of food and to simply wash them.

Lab experts say the best way to wash these bags is to fill your sink up with water, add a little bleach, and then completely submerge your bag. Don’t use your bag until it’s completely dry.

“Wash your bags. Yes, definitely. That’s the verdict,” said Huett.

Following these tips can lower your chance of risking illness. Cross contamination is the last thing you want on your dinner plate.

You should also look for bags that are more plastic instead of cloth. Plastic is one solid sheet and fabric is woven, so bacteria can get trapped in those threads.

Recent research done at the University of Arizona found that only 3 percent of shoppers clean their re-usable bags on a regular basis and most consumers are unaware of the need to regularly wash their bags.

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