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Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Health editor Janice Kerr has some important advice today for those of you who are bringing your own reusable shopping bags to the supermarket. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! I’m sure many of our readers are thinking greener lately by choosing reusable bags over paper or plastic. We’re killing less trees and cutting down on landfill waste. In addition, most supermarkets and big box stores give you a certain amount of cash back for using your own bags, and those pennies and nickels add up over time.

So for all of you who bring your own bags, hooray for you! But how many of you wash those bags on a regular basis? How many of you have never thought about washing those bags? A recent study found that 97% of people the people surveyed who use reusable bags have never laundered them.

Shopping bags should be treated the same way you’d treat an food storage containers. You don’t put your Pyrex and Tupperware away without washing them, do you? The same should hold true for your shopping bags. Those bags are perfect breeding grounds for various food borne bacteria. One study showed that nearly half the bags tested contained coliform bacteria, including e coli and in quantities 10 to 20 times the amount found on the average toilet seat. Now that’s disgusting!

So how do you balance what’s good for the environment with what’s good for your health? Here are a few simple rules:

1. To prevent cross-contamination, always separate your items -- meats in one bag, produce in another, dairy in a third, cleaning products in a fourth, etc. Never place any raw foods in a bag that has carried meat products.

2. Never use reusable food bags for any other purposes such as carrying gym clothes, books, water bottles, laptops, etc.

3. Never store your reusable food bags in the trunk of your car. The higher temperatures are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

4. Wash your bags regularly in the washing machine, using bleach.

Excellent advice as always, Janice! Thanks for educating our readers.

Our Book Club Friday guest author this week is giving away a copy of one of her books. To be entered in the drawing, all you have to do is post a comment to the blog this week. -- AP 

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