Please Stop Putting Reusable Bags on the Kitchen Counter

Reusable bags bring home more than just your groceries.

There are already one too many items crawling with germs in your kitchen, besides your sponge. And dropping your reusable bag on the counter adds more to the mix.

So please, stop putting your reusable bags on the kitchen counter. There’s research proving it’s worth avoiding, according to Sorana Segal-Maurer, MD, the director of the Dr. James J. Rahal Jr Division of Infectious Disease at NewYork-Presbyterian in Queens, New York. “Most people don’t wash these bags, and most people do not separate food items by category into different bags such as meats, vegetables, and dry goods,” Dr. Segal-Maurer says. All those different foods in one bag up the chances of cross-contamination, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That’s all added to the fact that your bag goes everywhere with you, and comes into contact with other germs. Put that same bag on your counter, and that’s one unsanitary recipe.

In a study of shoppers in California and Arizona, researchers found E. coli in more than one out of every ten reusable bags. “If these customers used the bags to transfer meat and didn’t wash them and then stored their bags in cars, then the amount of bacteria in these bags increased tenfold,” Dr. Segal-Maurer adds. The good news is that people who washed their bags reduced the bacteria by 99 percent. The worse news is that 97 percent of people in the survey admitted they never washed their reusable bags. That’s why, a few years ago, an entire youth soccer team came down with a norovirus traced back to reusable grocery bags. But germs are only one con of opting for reusable bags.

It’s possible to stick with your reusable bag and keep things sanitary, according to Dr. Segal-Maurer. Here are her tips:

  1. Always wash and either air-dry or machine-dry your reusable bags.
  2. Store your bags in a cool place—not in your hot car.
  3. Before putting meat in your reusable bag, place them in disposable plastic bags from the produce section.
  4. Separate your meats, dry goods, and your fruits or vegetables into different types of bags.
  5. Keep designated reusable totes just for grocery shopping. If you do use it for something else, wash it before and after use.

Let’s also not forget that your hands pick up germs throughout the day, too. So touching your reusable bag makes them even germier. If you paid at the store with cash at the store, or touched any of these things, you should wash your hand immediately.

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Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.