Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
Detective Foodsafe™ and the Case of the Reusable Grocery Bag Contamination

Detective Foodsafe™ and the Case of the Reusable Grocery Bag Contamination

One Saturday afternoon Detective Foodsafe™ was at her local grocery store and spotted many shoppers pushing carts and selecting all kinds of foods from the shelves.

She was doing a little supermarket shopping for her dinner that evening and for the upcoming week.

Ever vigilant, Detective Foodsafe started in the middle of the grocery store to pick up some staples for the meals ahead that were nonperishable like rice and beans, pasta, jarred sauce and paper towels. She then moved on to the perimeter of the grocery store to pick up those items that were perishable, such as fruit, vegetables, dairy foods, frozen food and meats.

Detective Foodsafe was very concerned that her frozen food selections wouldn’t begin to melt or that her milk wouldn’t get warm before she even checks out up front. She hurried through the outside of the store, not wanting to waste any time with these vulnerable foods, and quickly proceeds to the checkout. She knows that cold food should be refrigerated within two hours of purchasing.

Foodborne Illness Suspect: Reusable Grocery Bags

Unfortunately, it was a busy weekend day with many shoppers so Detective Foodsafe had to stand in line for a bit. While she waited she watched the other shoppers and spotted many using reusable grocery bags.

She thought to herself “Darn, I forgot my bags again!” She also was pleased that so many shoppers were actually thinking about using bags that were recyclable. One woman even had an insulated bag that she used for the meat and cheese she bought.

Ever vigilant, Detective Foodsafe maneuvered herself around to take a good look into the bags only to see that this shopper was using bags that had signs of old meat juices and some spilled milk. “Oh no” thought Detective Foodsafe, “I think that there might be a potential food safety problem in this grocery store!”

Grocery bags that are reusable and unclean could make this shopper and her family sick from food contamination.

Keeping Reusable Grocery Bags Free From Foodborne Illness

Detective Foodsafe is often surprised by the condition of some grocery bags. Some are torn or raggedy and some have seen better days after being tossed into the trunk numerous times. While those can cause problems, she knows it is the ones with food residue from prior shopping trips that are most dangerous.

Here are her tips for keeping your grocery bags safe:

  • Wash your reusable grocery bags regularly to prevent cross contamination from food stored on the way home.
  • Wash in the washing machine or by hand, just wash them. Use hot, soapy water when washing. Most can be dried in the dryer or air dried if you prefer.
  • If using insulated bags, scrub the interior with hot, soapy water and air dry.
  • Keep your grocery bags in a clean and dry place between supermarket trips. Avoid contamination in trunk of car or other location.reusable grocery bags
  • While shopping, place your empty grocery bags on the bottom of the cart under the food compartment to keep them separate from the foods you are selecting. Carry them to the bagging area after unloading the foods onto the conveyor, don’t put your clean bags on the conveyor belt.
  • Store any meat, poultry or fish in a plastic grocery bag (look for these in the produce aisle if not found in the meat section). This will help prevent juices from leaking on the bag or other food items. Always throw away the plastic bag used to store meats and dairy when you unload your groceries; these should not be reused.
  • Bring adequate number of grocery bags to keep foods separate, including meat, dairy, boxes, produce and ready to eat foods.
  • When bringing your food into the house, avoid placing bags on the counter or thoroughly clean counters after the bags are empty, as bags can be inadvertently contaminated from the cart, store or your vehicle.
  • Keep reusable grocery bags specific for supermarket trips just for food. Use other bags for other duties so you are sure they remain clean for food.

Detective Foodsafe™ wants to remind you that many of these reusable grocery bags are made of fabric that easily picks up germs which can make you and your family ill. They are easy to toss into the wash so add that task to your wash routine to be sure to remember to wash them regularly.

And always remember, when it comes to protecting us from illness caused by our food, Detective Foodsafe is always on the case!

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