Reusable Cloth Grocery Bags: Eco-friendly but Contaminant Rich

by Diane Vautier on October 28, 2010

My pile of reusable bags that I collect from trade shows and conferences. They work great for groceries.

Just when you think you’re getting the hang of this eco-friendly thing, something new pops up to question your efforts. Take cloth grocery bags for example. Lots of folks are becoming eco-aware and are starting to use reusable cloth bags to carry their groceries.  I’ve been using them for years now. It makes me feel worthy, like I’m doing something positive to ensure a healthy environment.

Well, it turns out that what is good for the environment just might not be so good for you.  A June 2010 study by the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University entitled “Assessment for the Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags” concluded that a potential significant risk exists.

That’s right. Those earth-friendly cloth bags are downright unhealthy.  In fact, large numbers of bacteria were found in reusable bags that were not present in new plastic bags, including a pretty nasty one, E. Coli. So what’s a greenie to do? The answer is actually pretty simple.

Wash the bags.

The study found that only 3% of those surveyed regularly washed their reusable bags. “Hand or machine washing reduced the numbers of bacteria in reusable bags by > 99.9%.” according to the study.

So don’t toss those reusable cloth bags. Keep using them. Just wash them. Regularly. Then continue to use them knowing that you’re doing the right thing for you, your family and the environment.

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