So you decided to go green and purchase reusable cloth grocery bags. While you may be saving the environment, a new study conducted by the Country Living Association shows if not used properly, they could be a haven for bacteria. Cindy Brison (BRY-sun) is a UNL Food and Nutrition Extension Educator for Douglas and Sarpy Counties and says you have to be very careful when using these bags and offers these tips.
“Paper goods are fine in there. All different types of dry goods but if you start taking home any type of raw meat it is really important you have them in another plastic bag just to keep any juices from getting out. If you do happen to get any juices of out from chicken or beef or anything like it, you can try to take them home and hand wash them with soap and water and let them air dry but I wouldn’t recommend putting them in the washer because I don’t know, unless it is a canvas bag, that a lot of these bags are washable and will survive.”
Brison says you may want to designate bags for certain use to prevent cross-contamination.
“So maybe you have just one bag for fruits and vegetables and one bag for fresh meats. Then you won’t have any problems with things going back and forth.”
Brison says it is also very important to store these bags properly between trips so they do not get dirty.
“When I use my bags, I take them fill them with groceries, I take them home and unload them then I fold them up and put them all inside one bag and put them in an area that is clean. Either hang them outside your door, inside your front door so you can take them as you go or put them in the back, in the corner of my van where I know it is going to be clean and nothing else is going to get on them. I’m not going to put anything else on top of them.”
Speaking of the trunk of a vehicle, it is not a good idea to store the bags there. A trunk often times contains items like running shoes and other athletic equipment and that makes a great atmosphere for bacteria to grow. Brison says we do have plenty of summer left along with hot weather. Even though the trunk is convenient, don’t use it during hot weather for groceries.
“Leave nothing in your trunk. Anything that is going to be out than, anything perishable like fresh fruits or vegetables will deteriorate quickly but anything like fresh meats, eggs, milk, on a day like we had last week, if it is in your car for more than an hour, in your trunk or even in the back seat, it is still not going to be real cold and you are going to have to throw them away. I really would hate to see people fill their car full of things and then have to throw them away.”
Brison says another tip is to designate one reusable bag for chemical products like soaps and cleaners. You don’t want to risk the danger of having a container leak and then later using that bag for fresh produce.