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Reusable Grocery Totes Carry Pathogens: Who Knew?

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watch out for pathogens in your reusable grocery tote bags Jupiterimages/Comstock/Thinkstock

I had one of those "Really?" moments recently while reading an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics press release.

The registered dietitians of this national organization want us to watch out for reusable grocery tote bags, as they can harbor the kind of bacteria that cause foodborne illness.

Really? Yes, really.

As the article explains, the various items -- including fresh produce, meats and poultry -- that are stuffed into a grocery tote can carry harmful bacteria until those items are washed and cooked.

In turn, the bacteria can transfer to the tote bags and hide out there until we get around to washing the bags.

But do we wash the bags? The Academy collaborated with ConAgra Foods as part of the Home Food Safety Program to conduct a survey of Americans that found only 15 percent of us regularly wash our grocery totes.

That's cause for concern, considering that each year, 48 million Americans suffer through food poisoning from salmonella, E. coli and other foodborne pathogens.

"Cross-contamination occurs when juices from raw meats or germs from unclean objects come in contact with cooked or ready-to-eat foods like breads or produce," said registered dietitian and Academy spokesperson Ruth Frechman.

"Unwashed grocery bags are lingering with bacteria which can easily contaminate your foods."

Food poisoning often is preventable, and the Home Food Safety Program wants us to take the easy, precautionary step of washing reusable grocery totes frequently.

Other food-poisoning prevention steps the dietitians advise include:

 Clean all areas where the totes are placed, such as kitchen counters.

 Store the bags in a clean, dry location.

 Avoid leaving empty totes in the trunk of a vehicle.

 Ask the checkout clerk to put meats, fish and poultry in plastic bags.

 Dedicate a few reusable totes to meats, fish and poultry, and other totes to produce and ready-to-eat foods.

 Hand-wash the totes in hot, soapy water if that's preferred to the machine.

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Just throw 'em in the washing machine every time you use 'em. If they won't hold up to that - they won't hold your groceries.

May 9, 2012 - 7:09am
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