Are sustainable produce bags unsanitary?

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Sustainable, reusable produce bags are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to single use plastic bags. As more people adopt plastic free grocery bags, more and more questions are begin asked surrounding best practices maintenance for these bags.

Research carried out by Loma Linda University Health revealed that almost all sustainable grocery bags carry bacteria in them. However since bacteria can form on most surfaces this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

Mobile phones, sink basins and door handles surfaces are other everyday examples items with surfaces that accumulate high amounts of bacteria, but it’s how we clean these surfaces that matters, and the same applies to sustainable mesh grocery bags.

In short, if you do not clean and maintain your reusable bags, you can expect bacteria to form. Traces of E. Coli (a fecal bacteria) has been known to accumulate on un sanitary reusable grocery bags. Just like any other surfaces that you use to prepare food, at some stage they need to be cleaned, which is why you shouldn’t let this put you off using natural grocery bags.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to keep your reusable bags clean. We have compiled some tips to help you do exactly that:

  1. Make sure your cleaning detergent includes disinfectant such as peracetic acid or oxy-clean (a natural cleaning option could also be thymol or thyme oil).
  2. Since the deadliest bacteria comes from raw foods, it’s safest to separate certain food types from one another (examples include fish and eggs). Perhaps bring a separate shopping bag for these items.
  3. It’s safest to wash and dry your sustainable produce bags separately from your clothes etc.
  4. Make sure your reusable produce bag is washable and not made from polypropylene (plastic).

In order to reduce yeasts, mold and bacteria from accumulating on the surfaces of your produce bag, you should routinely clean them between each use. The Cleaning Institute highlighted some things to bear in mind:

– Wash bags after each use, following label care instructions

– Wipe bags with a disinfecting or sanitizing cloth (especially along the seams)

– Separate foods in produce bags, i.e. raw meats and fish (label bags for convenience)

– After washing, make sure bags are dried before you store them away. Don’t store bags in warm or humid places where bacteria is most prominent, in order to maintain them for future shopping use.

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