Following the plastic bag ban reusable grocery bags are on the rise but they could also be making us very sick.

The reusable bags cut down on waste, help the environment and also save you some money. But those bags could be putting you at risk of getting sick.

If you don’t actually wash the bags or load your shopping up in the right way, it could lead to some nasty health problems.

The University of Arizona and Loma Linda University researchers recently found almost all reusable bags randomly selected from customers doing their groceries contained a lot of bacteria.

Nearly half contained coliform bacteria and 12% contained E. coli according to the findings, which is pretty gross when you think about your groceries sitting in that.

No need to panic according to FSANZ

Lorraine Haase, the spokesperson for Food Standards Australia New Zealand, doesn’t think people need to panic about it. She says the key is to keep different types of food in different bags. Raw meat and other cold products should go in a chiller bag, not in the same bag that’s used for fruit and vegetables.

“You don’t want juices from a chicken leaking onto a lettuce,” she tells Mamamia.

Ms Haase says people need to keep an eye out for any spills or leaks inside bags – in particular, raw meat or broken eggs.

“If I see any kind of leakage I throw the bag away or I give it a wash,” she says.

She says vegetables such as lettuce that are going to be eaten raw should be kept in their own plastic bags inside the shopping bags. But that’s not necessary for vegetables such as sweet potato that are going to be cooked.

“If you’re buying produce with a bit of dirt on the outside, again, it’s just about checking the bag afterwards and maybe giving it a bit of a wash,” she adds.

Ms Haase says if people are keeping different types of food separate, the risk of contracting food-borne illness from reusable shopping bags is “quite low”.

PLUS there is also the issue of people over filling their shopping bags and causing severe neck and back issues.

Share your comments below

  • Thanks for sharing this is great to know


  • I do my shopping bags after I have emptied them and make sure they are dry before they are stored ready for the next time


  • How about we use some common sense with this? I know it’s in short supply but I am sure that there are many ways around it all.


  • I have always washed my bags or wiped them out if anything spills. It does seem though you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t use your own bags.


  • I’ve not become sick yet, years after using my recyclable bags. I wipe down the plastic liner at the bottom of the bag every now and then, and also the cooler bags. Most of my items are all packaged in some way and I have no issue mixing dog food cans with other cans etc.


  • I think supermarkets should have bought out a range of colour coordinated bags to avoid this from happening to assist customers. Green for fruit n veg, blue for frozen, red for meat, Black for poisons, yellow for grains and pantry etc. make them available in a multipack too.

    • We have done our own colour coding for our bags. :) Good idea – maybe suggest it to them?


  • I always put my meat into a plastic bag for exactly this reason. (To avoid cross contamination)


  • I’ll probably be frowned upon for saying this, but I don’t really have anything that is actually coming into contact with the bag itself as any fresh fruit or veg I buy I put into the plastic bags provided as I think these keep them fresher in the fridge and are more hygienic – can you imagine how much bacteria must be in a trolley? I don’t want to put my fruit or veg loosely into one!


  • I will say I’ve never washed mine in the 9 years that I’ve been using these bags. And I’ve never been sick from them nor has anyone else in the household.


  • I always wash my bags & I usually put my items in categories (fruit & veg separately to meat etc). I find though when I go through the assistant checkout, my items get crammed into any bag & I end up having to resort them.


  • I don’t wash them but buy a new one!


  • Some common sense and a simple quick spray with Glen 20 is all that is needed. I always keep like items bagged separately and always have.


  • We have used reusable bags for years and never had any problems – we have chiller bags, fruit and veg bags and other bags for other items. We just clean our bags and they are ready for the next shop.


  • What a fear mongering title on this article, of course it is common sense to keep raw meats away from other foods, just like you do in your fridge, and wash them when they are dirty. There is probably more bacteria on all the packaging that gets handled quite a few times, how many wash a packet before opening and then wash their hands again before serving?

    • Very well said ..and I agree


  • Very true! Must remember to wash them


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