98% of Reusable Shopping Bags Harbor Bacteria (Here's How to Avoid It)

Sophie Miura

There’s no doubt that reusable shopping bags are far better for the environment than plastic alternatives, but what about for your health? According to the UK’s Food Standards Agency, there’s a serious downside to using the same tote over and over again. Researchers found that the vast majority of reusable bags tested contained bacteria that could lead to cross-contamination and food poisoning.

While it was only a small study, the agency found that of the 84 bags tested, 83 contained coliform bacteria and E. coli, The Kitchn reports. That’s possibly because bacteria from raw foods like fish and meat can be transferred from the outside of the packaging, even if you can’t see a leak. What’s more, a study conducted by the University of Arizona found that 97% of shoppers rarely wash their grocery bags, meaning that bacteria left behind by said foods are left to spread.

Tossing your reusable grocery bags and returning to disposable plastic isn’t the solution, though. Instead, the Food Standards Agency recommends separating your groceries into designated totes. “Ideally, you should have enough bags to carry raw foods, ready-to-eat foods, and non-food items such as washing powder separately,” the agency suggests. “Keep enough bags for life for raw foods only, and don’t use the same bags again for ready-to-eat foods or for carrying other household items.”

Yes, it’s time to thoroughly wash your reusable grocery bags and stock up on extras before your next shop.

Start with this $3 net grocery bag that’s French girl–approved.

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