Southern California environment news and trends

Keeping your reusable shopping bags bacteria-free

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David McNew/Getty Images

California has become quite the battleground for single-use plastic bags. Just this week, Solana Beach became the first city in San Diego County to ban their use in grocery stores, restaurants and other retailers.

While there are factions adamantly fighting to keep plastic bags in circulation (most notably the Plastic Bag Coalition), many Californians — especially the enlightened minds who read “Pacific Swell” — have already made the switch to reusable shopping bags. The Huffington Post, however, reminds us that simply having a supply of tote bags at the ready is not enough. It’s just as important to keep them clean.

The Post goes on to roll out some sobering statistics, like a recent study revealing that only 15 percent of North Americans routinely wash their reusable bags. The story further emphasizes the point with a 2010 report that found E. coli bacteria in 12 percent of randomly tested tote bags across three cities, including Los Angeles. More than half of the bags tested positive for coliform bacteria, which you don’t want anywhere near your food. Trust me.

Thankfully, the story kindly provides a seven-point checklist on keeping your bag stash fresh as a daisy and most importantly, bacteria-free. One pointer that immediately jumped out at me: to never store reusable grocery bags in the trunk of the car, even when they’re empty. The steamy temps back there amount to a bacteria singles bar, and the stuff can multiply up to tenfold in just two hours.

Ultimately, a weekly washing of reusable shopping bags should be enough to keep the creepy microorganisms at bay. You can stop scratching now.

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