Have you made the switch to reusable bags? Good for you! But when was the last time you washed those bags?
If you're like me, after you unpack your groceries, you fold up those bags and toss them back in your car on your next trip out. The only time I've washed one was when a bottle of soda leaked out, and I regretted the fact that the bag shrank to less than half its original size, and that was a result of washing it in cold water and hanging it to dry.
However, after reading one of the briefs in today's Science & Technology section, I will be washing every single reusable bag I own, and if they shrink, so be it.
The item addressed a survey that was conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University, where they asked shoppers outside of grocery stores in California and Arizona if they wash their reusable bags.
An astonishing 97 percent of those shoppers said they do not regularly, if ever, wash their bags. Three-fourths said they don't use separate bags for meats and for vegetables, and about a third said they used the bags for all sorts of things, such as storing snacks and toting books.
The researchers tested 84 of the bags for bacteria. They found whopping amounts in all but one bag, and coliform bacteria (suggesting raw-meat or uncooked-food contamination) in half. E. coli was in 12 percent of the bags.
Considering researchers also found that machine washing or hand washing the bags reduced bacteria levels to almost nothing, and the fact that I'm a bit of a germophobe, I plan to add one more load to my laundry each week.