The Internet is buzzing about a recent study that found that reusable grocery bags are a breeding ground for bacteria such as E. coli. More than half the bags randomly tested showed signs of E. coli. (You can find the release and a link to the full report here.) But more startling, in my opinion, was the finding that 97% of people with reusable bags had NEVER washed their bags. Not once. Not after putting a package of raw beef into it. Not after putting chicken in to it. Not after putting sandy, dirty fresh spinach, which has been found in the past to be responsible for a salmonella outbreak.
People who don’t want to eliminate plastic bags are using these germ facts to fight the ban on bags in grocery stores. But no one is pointing out that the entire issue could be eliminated by using common sense and washing your dirty bags.
I am part of the 3% minority who washes reusable bags. When I come home from the grocery store, any bag that has produce, meat, or any raw food in it gets tossed into the laundry. If it is not a cloth bag but a vinyl or other waterproof bag, I put it in the tub, fill it with water and cleanser, and scrub it clean. Then I leave it to dry in the shower or outside. It’s just that simple.
At this point, I have accumulated enough reusable bags (almost every one was free) that I can let an entire load of just grocery bags build up before I wash them. (But I don’t, because when a bag has liquid from raw chicken on it, I want to wash it as soon as possible so that it does not spread germs all over everything it touches.) I have large bags that I use for and other non-food items. I have small, fold-able bags that fit into my purse. I have bags of all sizes and shapes for every occasion, and I keep a few in my trunk at all times. Some aren’t very pretty since the logos washed off in the laundry. But while they may not have pretty designs or logos anymore, they also don’t have E. coli or salmonella.
Is it really that difficult to throw a canvas bag in with your hot-water wash, people?