A new survey report highlights the risks of not washing grocery totes, especially those used to carry meat and vegetables from supermarkets back to the home. A surprisingly large number of Americans do not wash their totes regularly.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who have issued a special report, only 15% of US citizens regularly wash reusable grocery totes. Whilst reusable totes are an environmentally-friendly alternative to paper or plastic bags, they are also a potential source for contamination, including food pathogens.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the one of the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.
The report, which was co-sponsored by ConAgra Foods (an American packaged foods company), states:
“"Cross-contamination occurs when juices from raw meats or germs from unclean objects come in contact with cooked or ready-to-eat foods like breads or produce. Unwashed grocery bags are lingering with bacteria which can easily contaminate your foods.”
The findings indicated that unwashed grocery totes provide an environment for the survival and multiplication of bacteria like salmonella, listeria, E. coli and other pathogens. Leakage and cross contamination of food poisoning pathogens from raw and cooked foods can remain in the grocery tote for long periods of time.
The report goes on to state:
“Food poisoning can easily be prevented with practical steps, such as cleaning grocery totes and separating raw meats from ready-to-eat foods when shopping, cooking, serving and storing foods.”
Newswire notes that the report offers advice to reduce the risk of food pathogens, which includes:
• Frequently washing your grocery tote, either in the washing machine or by hand with hot, soapy water;
• Cleaning all areas where you place your totes, such as the kitchen counter;
• Storing totes in a clean, dry location;
• Avoiding leaving empty totes in the trunk of a vehicle;
• Having separate grocery totes for meat and ready to eat foods to keep those foods away from other groceries.
Although the survey was based on a small sample set, the pattern of results and the general safety advice is similar to the advice from other organizations (such as the Food Safety Organization). Information and trends related to food poisoning and related illnesses are maintained by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Here the CDC notes that:
“CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.”
So, may be one way to reduce this risk is to clean the grocery tote.