Your reusable shopping bags could be making you sick

GOING shopping with reusable grocery bags is a great thing to do, it cuts down on waste, helps the environment and depending on where you shop it can save you some money.

But those bags could be putting you at risk of getting sick.

If you don't actually wash the bags (yeah right, when was the last time you did that?) or load your shopping up in the right way, it could lead to some nasty health problems.

Reusable shopping bags are great for the environment but if you aren't always washing them it could make you sick. Source: Supplied

The University of Arizona and Loma Linda University researchers recently found almost all reusable bags randomly selected from customers doing their groceries contained a lot of bacteria.

Nearly half contained coliform bacteria and 12% contained E. Coli according to the findings, which is pretty gross when you think about your groceries sitting in that.

Recent updates to the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency Guidelines reignited worries around the hygiene of reusable bags, but according to Food Standards Australia New Zealand we don't need to panic.

"The biggest risk is from meat coming into contact with other products, if you for example have a chiller bag you take to the grocery store and you have all of your cold goods in there, plus fruit and veggies, plus the meat, then that puts you at risk of cross contamination," a FSANZ spokesperson told Kidspot.

You need to separate the things that go into your bags and make sure things like meat are being stored appropriately.

"Meat should be in a separate bag and in plastic and it should be taken out as soon as you get home, there shouldn't be much of a gap between when you shop and when you get home," said the spokesperson.

It's advised that if you are mixing things like meat, fruit, veggies and dry groceries all in the same bags that you do wash them regularly because while the chance of getting sick is small, it is there.

Four filled and colorful eco-friendly shopping bags in the back seat of a car.
You need to separate the things that go into your bags and make sure things like meat are being stored appropriately. Source: iStock

The Good Housekeeping Institute has also put together a handy list of the best ways to wash different kinds of reusable bags.

  • Canvas bags: Just toss them in the washing machine and launder in hot water with detergent. Then, run them through the dryer.
  • Recycled plastic bags: You should wash anything made from recycled plastic containers (a.k.a. polypropylene bags) by hand in warm soapy water and line dry it. Don't forget about the inner and outer seams, where crud can hide and collect.
  • Insulated shopping bags: Since you're probably transporting raw meat in these bags, wipe them with a disinfecting wipe after each use.
  • Nylon bags: Flip them inside out and wash them by hand in warm soapy water. If you prefer to machine wash them, use the gentlest cycle to prevent the bag from coming apart. Then, allow them to air dry.

This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished with permission.

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