There have been a few recent independent studies done on the bacteria levels that show up in the reusable shopping bags that people carry around. These studies were conducted by Universities and independent scientists and done all throughout various parts of Canada and the United States. All of the studies took at least 100 bags from various random people out shopping and tested them for any type of bacteria and disease.
The most shocking find was that 2% in one study actually carried the e-coli virus! This can make you very sick and can be potentially fatal. Two percent may seem low and nothing to worry about but consider the rest of the findings – between 95 and 99% of bags in each study showed bacteria in moderate amounts inside the bags! These bacteria ranged from bacteria regularly found on counter tops to mold! Yuck!
These bags are generally carted around from your possibly dirty counter top or closet, to the trunk of your car, and carry home various foods such as meats that can possibly leak a bit into the bag. It’s no wonder they pick up a bit of bacteria along the way. And only 6% of people in the study had actually done something about cleaning the bags at some point, most just emptied and reused, and emptied and reused….. I know I have actually never thought about cleaning mine before this!
Using reusable bags for your shopping is still a great idea because we really do need to help the environment and get rid of all the plastic and paper bags, so they really do more good than bad. And they don’t have to be bad at all - scientists have said that simply washing out the bags after each use is enough to reduce 99% of the bacteria, so at the very least give them a good wipe down after you get home from the market. If you are a particularly bad germophobe a wash out with bleach with a good rinse will attack all the bad stuff in there. You may even want to consider using a bigger bag to cart around your little bags to keep them safe and clean when not in use. And even though no one has reported any sicknesses caused by the bacteria coming from the bags it’s probably a good idea to wash any loose fruits or vegetables that come out of the bags just to be on the safe side.
So do your part for the environment and continue to use your reusable bags just be sure to keep them clean to keep yourself healthy and safe!