You see them everywhere now, reusable grocery bags. What once was a novel idea used by the greenest of the green consumers, I am amazed at the variety and breadth of stores that now sell reusable bags. From a store’s standpoint, I would imagine these bags are a triple win: they can profit from selling them, reduce their costs when consumers use them and benefit from free advertising whenever the bags are viewed.
I have to admit, I love my reusable bags and oddly, have begun a collection of sorts. When we were in Texas last year, I bought one from my good friend Jenn’s grocery store. Every time I use this bag, I think of Jenn. I have one from a DC store, a store in New York where my aunt and uncle live and tons from local places too.
I’d never really considered the food safety and cleanliness of my bags until media reports began to pop up talking about E. Coli and other bacteria found in reusable bags. The last thing I want with my fresh produce and groceries is bacteria, so I share with you the great tips I found on how to keep your bags clean:
• The easiest way to keep E. Coli at bay is to sort your bags by use before you go to the grocery store:
*Meat –Keep one bag for meat, and by all
means, use the plastic bags (they are recyclable if you are concerned about using plastic) that most stores offer to wrap your meat
*Seafood—Use another bag for seafood, which often times is sufficiently wrapped, but can benefit from the use of one of the heavier duty “freezer” bags to help keep it fresh
*Produce—Separate all fruits and vegetables from other items
*Dairy—Like Seafood and Meat, keep dairy separate too
*Boxed Goods/Grocery Items—Lastly, a bag dedicated to boxes items can help cut down on the cleaning of the bags, as these items should be fairly void of bacteria
• Sorting bags by color or store name can help you remember which bags are to be used for which items. Perhaps red for meat, blue for seafood, green for produce, etc. Or you can write in a permanent marker on the bag
• Periodically clean your bags with one of the following methods:
*A vinegar and water spray solution or environmentally friendly all purpose cleaner (you don’t want toxic fumes near fresh food). Spray the interior of your bag and towel dry.
*Good old fashioned soap and warm water. Wipe the interior of you bags down and then hang dry.
*If you feel as though you must, you can wash most bags in the washing machine, on cold, but do NOT place bags (except 100% cotton and the like) in the dryer. NOTE: you will most likely lose the cute folds and shape of your bag if you place them in the washing machine, but if they are really foul, go ahead and sacrifice those folds!
Hope these tips on keeping your bags clean come in handy!