Are reusable shopping bags clean?

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Reusable green shopping bags are more eco-friendly, reusable and green, but are they are clean?

After bagging vegetables where meats were once bagged, it could create a home for bacteria at the bottom of a number of bags. In retrospect, could the bacteria lurking at the bottom of your grocery bags put your health at risk?

Samantha Stine of Vinton has been using the same set of bags for almost four months now, and she's never once thought about washing them.

"I have a total of five bags," said Stine. "There's no odor from them, so I would say they're clean."

To find out for sure, WMBF News' sister station KPLC collected a total of nine bags from area shoppers and took them to the McNeese biology lab to have them swabbed for bacteria.

Out of the nine bags, three of them had more than three microorganisms forming from the bacteria in the bags.

We also tested a brand new bag, that came out with no bacteria - meaning the bacteria had formed from the groceries.

"It may have been from what was put in the bag, or it may be that the bag was just older and microorganisms from the air settled into there. It's kind of hard to say," said Dr. Jay Comeaux, asst. professor of microbiology at McNeese State University.

Although Comeaux said the bacteria is rather mild this run time around, next time it could be a different story.

"There is the potential that there could be microtobial contamination from the bags to our foods, " said Comeaux "And we just have to keep a very close eye on that to make sure that it doesn't happen."

To keep a close eye on it, it's often a good idea to designate a certain bag for each type of food, and if you must bag different foods together, be sure to wrap your meats and veggies with a separate plastic bag to avoid any cross contamination.

Stine's bags were some of the cleanest in the study. And what was her secret?

"I don't really have a secret," said Stine. "All I can say is that they are clean because I pay attention to if there's any spills in them or something."

Tammy Hassenpflug is another shopper whose bags we swabbed.

Her bags came out with some colonies of bacteria, but still they were relatively clean.

Hassenpflug said she washes her bags frequently and she also uses something else to keep them clean.

"I keep this antibacterial thing in my car to spray in my bags each time I reuse them," said Hassenpflug. "I think you've just got to use some common sense and you shouldn't have any issues."

Some other tips for keeping your bags clean is to always hang them and let them after you wash them to let them dry to keep bacteria from growing in them.

In conclusion they're a great thing to use, just remember to take the right precautions.

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