My city recently approved a plastic bag ban, which won't change much for me, as I've been using reusable grocery bags for years. Wait. I've been using reusable grocery bags for...years. And when was the last time I washed them? Uh...This is what went through my head recently, just before I opened the trunk of my car, cleared out all the reusable bags, turned them inside out and threw them into the washing machine. I've always been pretty good about regularly washing canvas and nylon bags, but for some reason I was leery about washing the stiffer insulated and oilcloth-type bags. It was an unfounded fear: washed in cold water and dried in the sun, they emerged a little more crinkly but basically fine.
It's going to become a regular habit now. Reusable bags can become sites of bacterial cross-contamination when vegetables, fruits or other food eaten raw are placed in bags that previously held raw meat. A study released a couple years ago gave scary figures on the bacteria levels of reusable bags, but ultimately concluded that shoppers just need to keep their bags clean. Machine- or hand-washing bags "reduced bacteria levels to almost nothing," they reported.
Anjali is a former private chef who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in nutrition, with plans to become a registered dietitian. She lives in Los Angeles. You can read more of her health-focused writing at Eat Your Greens.
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