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It’s in the bag! A lot of bacteria, that is!

“Holier than thou” does not always mean “smarter than thou.” :-)

Environmentally-conscious shoppers in California and Arizona, who use reusable shopping bags rather than “paper or plastic,” were asked whether they ever wash the bags, by researchers from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University.

Some 97% of the shoppers, often with accompanying blank stares, reported that they seldom, if ever, wash the bags!

To add stupidity to ignorance, :-) 3/4 of those queried don’t use separate bags for meats and for vegetables, and about 1/3 said they use the bags for all sorts of things, such as storing snacks and carrying books. :-)

A former microbiologist like me (I’ve told you that) wants to know, “What’s in the bag?” :-)

Researchers tested 84 of the bags for bacteria. They found LOTS of bacteria in all but one bag, and coliform bacteria (suggesting raw meat or uncooked-food contamination) in HALF of them! Esherichia coli (an intestinal bacterium found in your gut and mine) was found in 12% of the bags.

So, being scientists, the researchers wrote a report, Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags (PDF). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (one of my former customers in high tech) has an FAQ on Foodborne Infections.

The researchers included, in their discussion:

“It is estimated that there are about 76,000,000 cases of foodborne illness in the United States every year. Most of these illnesses originate in the home from improper cooking or handling of foods. Reusable bags, if not properly washed between uses, create the potential for cross-contamination of foods. This potential exists when raw meat products and foods traditionally eaten uncooked (fruits and vegetables) are carried in the same bags, either together or between uses. This risk can be increased by the growth of bacteria in the bags.”

The LATimes online article points out “Hey! It’s natural!” :-)

Of course, horse manure is too! (“Organic,” too…!) :-)

The GOOD news…? The researchers also found that machine washing or hand washing of the reusable bags reduced bacterial levels to almost nothing!

You can purchase reusable canvas tote bags decorated with photos of California at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®.

If you use them to carry FOOD, please wash them! :-)

-Bill at

Cheshire Cat Photo™ – “Your Guide to California’s Wonderland™”

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®. Both Shutterfly™ and CafePress® ship to most international locations worldwide! Framed prints and prints on canvas can be ordered from our galleries on redbubble®. All four locations are accessible from here. Be a “Facebook Fan” of Cheshire Cat Photo here! If you don’t see what you want or would like to receive an email when new photos are up on the site, send us an email at

©2010 William F. Hackett. All Rights Reserved.

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