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The days of having your purchases placed into a new plastic shopping bag at IGA are now over and everyone in Delta Junction must use some alternate means to carry their grocery goodies out of the store.

While some people have graciously accepted the cardboard box when available, many have made the transition to reusable shopping bags. 

One of the things that most people fail to think about is how safe are these reusable bags?

There was a joint food safety research report released by researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University that uncovered how reusable grocery bags can serve as a breeding ground for many dangerous foodborne bacteria and can pose a significant public health risk.

The researchers randomly tested reusable grocery bags used by shoppers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tucson and found nearly half to be carrying harmful bacteria. Their findings suggested a serious threat from coliform bacteria including E. coli.

In 2010, six members of an Oregon soccer team became ill with “acute gastroenteritis” during a weekend tournament. One of the concerned parents contacted public health authorities and the investigation was able to confirm that the norovirus that affected the team was transmitted by a reusable shopping bag.

Naturally if someone becomes ill with a food related illness, blame is often placed on consuming some bad food or possibly having the flu. In the Oregon event, because it was brought to the attention of public health authorities, the source of the illness could be pinpointed.

It was not the reusable bag that was responsible for the illness; it was the lack of cleanliness of the bag that allowed for the transmission of the bacteria.

What can be done to combat this situation? Reusable shopping bags should be washed in hot water and some form of disinfecting agent such as bleach after each and every use. Once washed they should be thoroughly dried and placed inside another bag where they will stay inside your house until your next trip to the store.

Why not just take them back to the car so that they are there and ready for you when you need them next time? Good question, but the car is probably just about the worst place to store them. If the bags encounter moisture, they can start hosting bacteria before you even have time to use them.

Think about all of the other items that get placed in your vehicle. Boots, children, fishing gear, bait, trash you haul to the dump, wet and sweaty sports clothing, your dog or cat and so many other things that would be more than willing to spread some bacteria to those newly washed reusable grocery bags if given a chance.

Remember, clean those bags to stay healthy!

Tim Holoday can be reached at