Keep those green bags clean

Breeding ground for yucky germs

More and more Cayman residents are
turning to reusable grocery bags to take home their shopping, preventing at
least a few plastic bags from ending up at Mt. Trashmore.

But since the reusable bags are
being used for food, they need to be kept clean.

Dr. Monica Hoefert of the Seven
Mile Medical Clinic notes that the bags join a host of other kitchen items like
fridge doors, dish towels, and kitchen sponges, which all breed germs quite

“If you can find a reusable bag
that is washable that would be better, like the canvas bags for example,” she

“And certainly if something leaks
in it make sure you wash it and if you can’t then don’t use it for food

Researchers at the University of
Arizona and Loma Linda University found coli form bacteria in half of the bags
they tested and E. coli in 12 per cent of the bags.

Pro-plastic lobby

Their study was funded by the
American Chemistry Council, which is opposed to a California bill that would
ban single-use plastic bags. But while the study was funded by the pro-plastic
bag lobby, the fact remains those reusable bags definitely collect germs.

Similarly, report findings from the
Canadian Plastics Industry Association’s Environment and Plastics Industry
Council support concerns that reusable grocery bags can become habitat for microbes
and a breeding ground for bacteria, yeast, mould and coli forms.

“The moist, dark, warm interior of
a folded reusable bag that has acquired a small amount of water and a trace of
food contamination is an ideal incubator for bacteria,” the Canadian report

However, the American study found
that running the bags through a washer or cleaning them by hand reduced
bacteria levels to almost nothing.

The Canadian study did advise that
bags not be dried lying flat. Instead, turn them inside out and suspend them in
order to properly air them out.

“This will avoid the creation of a
moist habitat for bacteria, mould and yeast,” it stated.

Replace them

“Consideration should also be given
to replacing the reusables regularly to avoid the whole issue of bacterial
build up.”

Hoefert notes that if you are going
to use a reusable bag for food, it should be kept exclusively for carrying

“Definitely you should not be
putting other things like shoes in there or gym clothes,” she said.

But in general terms, Dr. Hoeffert
notes that above all, hand washing is key.

“Make sure you wash your hands when
you get in the house from outside,” she said.

“That is a really important way of
fighting germs.”

Local Story

Be sure to wash your reusable shopping bags to get rid of germs.
Photo: Stuart Wilson