Reusable Shopping Bags Transport Bacteria


Reusable shopping bags may be a more sustainable option than paper or plastic bags, yet a recent study found that large numbers of bacteria are present on reusable bags.

The study published in Food Protection Trends found that eight percent of bags contained E. coli and half contained coliform.

Reusable bags are particularly susceptible to contamination since remnants of meats and dairy products which may seep out of packaging remain in bags unless washed out, resulting in bacterial growth.  Once subjected to the heat of a car trunk, these bacteria quickly multiply.

"I was surprised to learn through this study that only three percent of shoppers surveyed actually said they washed their reusable bags between uses.  More surprising were the numbers of people who stated they used the bags not only for food shopping, but also to transport clothing and other products to and from work and the gym," said Dr. Gerba. University of Arizona Microbiologist.  "There has been a growing movement to use reusable bags when we shop, but without proper washing, these bags can expose our families to bacteria that can cause illness."

"Washing bags is the only way to protect your family. It will remove 99.9 percent of germs.  Although it may be a nuisance, washing must be done to ensure your food is safe to eat," added Gerba. "I'd recommend washing it with hot, soapy water after each use."

For an abstract of the published study, click here.