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Sharp Health News

Keeping your reusable bags clean

Dec. 30, 2016

Keeping your reusable bags clean

California's Proposition 67, passed by voters in November 2016, prohibits stores from providing single-use plastic bags. While many stores display large signs at the front door reminding shoppers to bring their reusable bags, the 10-cent fee per recyclable paper bag at checkout is a motivator to remember them next time.

Even if you've used canvas or other types of reusable bags for years, you may not realize that these bags carry more than just groceries. Dirt and bacteria from produce, meats and fish can remain in bags, and cross-contamination from food or other items can make you sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests these 5 tips for keeping your reusable grocery bags in tip-top shape:

1. Wash your bags often.
Canvas or cloth bags can be laundered in the washer and dryer or air-dried. Clean plastic lined bags by hand with a disinfectant cleaning cloth or a rag with warm, soapy water and air-dry them. Be sure bags are completely dry before storing.

2. Always place raw meat items in a disposable bag before placing them in a reusable bag.
Avoid foodborne illness by bagging meat, fish and poultry items in individual plastic bags, and disposing of these bags when you are done.

3. Keep meat, produce and other food items separate.
Use separate bags for meat and dairy items; fresh produce; dry goods; toiletries; and cleaning products. Use an insulated bag for meats and dairy items, and refrigerate within two hours of leaving the store.

4. Store bags in a cool, dry place (not the trunk of your car).
Although keeping your bags in the trunk can help ensure you use them, higher temperatures allow bacteria like salmonella to grow. Keep bags in a cool, dry place at home. Leave a note on your back door or in your car to help remind you to grab them before you shop.

5. Do not use grocery bags for other purposes.
Don't reuse grocery bags to transport gym clothes, toys, baby items or other non-food items.

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