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How Green is Your Bag? Maybe It Needs Washing

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Those reusable cloth grocery bags we use for shopping could be turning a rather unpleasant shade of green.

That is, if we are not washing them regularly.

Researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson and Loma Linda University in California have released results of a study indicating dirty shopping bags can become welcoming environments for bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses.

In the summary of their report scientists wrote. “Large numbers of bacteria were found in almost all bags and coliform bacteria in half. Escherichia coli were identified in 12 percent of the bags and a wide range of enteric bacteria, including several opportunistic pathogens.

“When meat juices were added to bags and stored in the trunks of cars for two hours the number of bacteria increased 10-fold, indicating the potential for bacterial growth in the bags,” wrote the scientists.

The study examined 84 cloth bags collected from consumers at shopping points.  Charles Gerba, a UA professor of soil, water and environmental sciences, added that the dirty bags were “particularly a danger for young children”. Gerba co-authored the study, as was reported today in the UA News.

Scientists recommended that bag labels encourage consumers to keep their totes washed and clean. (And, we’d suggest carrying meat in a separate bag and, of course, getting it right home to the refrigerator.)

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