Reusable Grocery Bags May Be Poisoning Your Food: Food Poisoning and Coronavirus Meet
The rising threat of Coronavirus is causing everyone to doubt their cleanliness, from how often one should wash their hands to how safe is takeout food. Though the most common source of contamination is inhalation of Coronavirus infected respiratory droplets, the second most potent source of contamination is by touching a surface the virus is living on and subsequently touching one’s face. Scientists at the CDC and NIH now theorize that the virus can live on surfaces for days, specifically two to three days on plastic surfaces. Although Coronavirus is not a foodborne illness, multiple areas and stores are restricting the use of reusable grocery bags, due to fears of the bags being contaminated with COVID-19. Even San Francisco, which in 2007 banned single-use plastic bags, has temporarily banned the use of reusable grocery bags and other reusable items due to Coronavirus fears. While fears of Coronavirus from reusable grocery bags are valid, reusable grocery bags may be contaminating your food with bacteria such as E. Coli and fecal matter. Foodborne illness causing bacteria is typically killed in food through cleaning or cooking, and the most common source of food poisoning is from improperly cleaning or cooking food. However, reusable grocery bags are rarely sanitized and are often breeding grounds for bacteria. Reusable shopping bags were tested in California and Arizona, and approximately half of the bags contained pathogens, with 8% of the bags testing positive for E. Coli. The same study found no traces of bacteria in new reusable grocery bags and in single-use plastic bags. Raw meat juices containing Salmonella, E. Coli, and Campylobacter often leak in the reusable grocery bag and consequently infect foods when next used, if the bag is not washed properly. Reusable grocery bags should be sanitized after every use and can be cleansed by hand washing or in a washing machine, depending on the fabric. According to the CDC, the reusable grocery bags should be washed at the highest temperature possible to destroy the bacteria. Disinfectant sprays or wipes approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), bleach, and 3% hydrogen peroxide can be used to disinfect reusable grocery bags. To protect consumers and grocery store clerk, reusable grocery bags should be properly disinfected after each use.