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What's in your reusuable grocery bag?

In addition to following an earth-friendly vegan diet, you also opt for reusable shopping bags instead of plastic grocery bags. Eco-bags may be good for the earth, but they also put your health at risk. Here's why.

In addition to following an earth-friendly vegan diet, you also forgo plastic shopping bags, opting instead for reusuable bags that won't immediately end up in a landfill. However, these eco-friendly bags may be less than kind to your health. A study conducted at the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences found nearly all reusable bags in the study were teeming with bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli. The study's lead microbiologist Dr Charles Gerba doesn't want you to ditch your green bags, but he does have a few safety tips for reusable bags to reduce your risk of foodborne illnesses.
In addition to following an earth-friendly vegan diet, you also forgo plastic shopping bags, opting instead for reusuable bags that won't immediately end up in a landfill. However, these eco-friendly bags may be less than kind to your health. A study conducted at the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences found nearly all reusable bags in the study were teeming with bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli. The study's lead microbiologist Dr Charles Gerba doesn't want you to ditch your green bags, but he does have a few safety tips for reusable bags to reduce your risk of foodborne illnesses.

Reusable bags can cause foodborne illnesses

In the study, reusable bagswere randomly collected from consumers as they entered grocery stores in California and Arizona. Large numbers of various bacteria were found in almost all the bags tested, and coliform bacteria was found in half of them. Researchers found that when meat juices were added to bags and stored in the trunks of cars for two hours, the number of bacteria increased 10-fold. The good news is, as a vegan, you greatly reduce your chance of cross-contamination from meats and animal products, but even fruits, vegetables, and other non-animal foods can contaminate your bag. Further, if you use your bag to carry your shoes, sweaty clothes, and non-food items, you increase the risk of your food being contaminated with bacteria and other germs.

4 Safety tips for reusuable grocery bags

In addition to foodborne bacteria, Dr Gerba warns that some reusable grocery bags may also be high in lead. But don't fear, he says, simply follow his four safety tips for reusable bags.

1. Check the label and go American

When you buy a reusable bag, make sure you know where it is coming from. The increased demand for reusable bags has led to the import of millions of bags from overseas and places such as China. Many of these bags have been tested and show to contain unsafe levels of lead, therefore prompting inquiry by federal officials. Choosing American made bags is a good way to help ensure a family-friendly product.

2. Use reusable shopping bags for groceries only

If you are going to use reusable shopping bags to carry around books, soccer uniforms, gym clothes, etc., keep those bags separate from the ones you use for groceries.

3. Wash your reusable bag thoroughly

Make sure to wash your bags after every use to avoid cross-contamination and bacteria growth. In Dr Gerba's study, machine washing was shown to kill over 99 percent of the bacteria. When washing, the inside and outside of the bag should be fully cleaned with soap and 190 degree Fahrenheit water. Use proper gloves to protect your hands, if hand-washing. You may also want to use bleach to make sure the bag is fully sanitized even after you have completed washing your bag by hand.

4. Store your bag appropriately

Do not store your bag in a small confined space like the trunk of your car. When reusable bags are stored in warm spaces with poor circulation, bacteria can grow more easily. Bags need to be aired out and preferably dried in the sun so that all moisture will evaporate.

More vegan lifestyle tips!
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