Wash that cotton grocery & vegetable bag!

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While we all must use only reusable cotton bags for our everyday shopping of groceries and vegetables, we must not forget the simple virtues of washing these bags.

A 2010 joint University of Arizona and Limo Loma University study (sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that advocates on behalf of disposable plastic bag manufacturers – with obviously questionable motive!) found that “Reusable grocery bags can be a breeding ground for dangerous foodborne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health”. The study found that 97% of users did not wash them and that greater than 50% of the 84 bags contained coliform (a bacterium found in fecal material), while E. coli was found in 12% of the bags. The study made several recommendations including:

  • States should consider requiring printed instructions on reusable bags indicating they need to cleaned or bleached between uses.
  • Machine or hand washing was effective in reducing coliform and other bacteria in the bags to levels below detection.

So while the claims of the study may be exaggerated, it is for your good that you don’t forget to wash your reusable bags once a month!

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