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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Reusable Bags Can Be a Breeding Ground For Bacteria

Posted by Jenna Smith - Food Safety

The growing trend of using reusable cloth or plastic-lined bags to carry the groceries in is becoming increasingly popular. This "green" alternative to the plastic disposable grocery bags has many benefits. They're environmentally-friendly, sturdy enough to hold a gallon of milk plus other items, and some of them are even quite fashionable. But with the month of September being designated National Food Safety month, we are reminded that these reusable bags can be a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria.

That's not to say we shouldn't use them. But some studies have shown E. coli, among other bacteria, have been detected in over half of randomly sampled bags. This scary statistic means we need to make sure we are taking the proper safety measures to keep bacteria at bay. Reusable bags need to be washed after use. Simply throw them in the washing machine using laundry detergent and dry in the drier or hang to air-dry. If you have plastic-lined bags scrub them with hot water and soap and allow it to air dry. Before storing them, make sure the bags are completely dry; bacteria thrive on moisture. Also, while the car may be a convenient place to store the bags, the high temperatures in the summer time will cause germs like Salmonella to multiply fast. Make sure to store them in a cool, dry place.

Have you ever picked up a packet of raw meat and gotten its juice on your hands? Juices of meat can also leak into the reusable bags and get on other foods causing risk for food borne illness. When you buy meat you should always put them in a disposable plastic bag before placing them in a reusable bag. Then, be sure to throw away the disposable plastic bag, and never reuse it. Also, use separate bags for carrying meats and separate bags for carrying produce so no cross contamination can occur. Designate your reusable bags for specific purposes, and use them solely for those purposes. Never carry gym clothes or child's toys, for example, in a reusable bag that's been designated to carry groceries. And don't forget that cold foods need to be refrigerated within 2 hours of leaving the grocery store or within 1 hour when outside temperatures are over 90ºF. So you shouldn't make too many stops! If you must travel long distances, be sure to pack a cooler of ice and keep temperatures at below 40ºF. Reuse those reusable bags, but make sure they aren't breeding bacteria.

French Dip

3-4 lb. beef chuck roast

2 cups water

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 bay leaf

3-5 whole peppercorns

10-12 French rolls

Place roast in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add water, soy sauce and seasonings. Cover and cook on High for 5-6 hours or until beef is tender. Remove meat from broth; shred with a fork and keep warm.

Strain broth and skim off fat. Pour broth into small cups for dipping. Serve beef on rolls.

Yield: 10-12 sandwiches

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving: 180 calories, 6g total fat, 80mg cholesterol, 430mg sodium, 1g total carbohydrate, 27g protein

Nutritional analysis does not include French rolls

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