Can Reusable Shopping Bags Transmit Germs Viruses? You Bet.
I take my reusable shopping bags with me everywhere I go. I use them at the grocery store religiously, but I also take them with me to my local farmer’s market, to the Salvation Army, to Target, and pretty much anywhere else I go to do my shopping.
Although I consider myself a clean person, and I’m really good about disinfecting surfaces and washing my hands, there’s something I never thought about until today: my reusable shopping bags, and the germs and bacteria that might be lurking in them.
I’m guessing you probably haven’t thought about this either. However, it’s something we all need to think about, since scientists have discovered that germs and viruses can land on inanimate objects and survive there for weeks.
For instance, NPR reports that public health officials in Oregon are investigating several cases of the highly contagious norovirus (stomach flu), which infected an entire youth soccer team and their chaperones a few weeks ago. Scientists couldn’t figure out how everyone managed to get sick, when no one had contact with the first person after they began showing symptoms.
The culprit turned out to be a reusable shopping bag, which was carrying snacks for the entire team. The bag had the virus, which got on most of the snack bags, and then infected everyone who ended up taking an “infected” snack. All said, 21 people got sick from this one shopping bag.
This certainly isn’t the first outbreak from a reusable shopping bag. NPR quotes another study they reported on back in 2010, where scientists discovered that more than half of the reusable bags they sampled contained some form of coliform bacteria, including E. coli. Yikes.
The lesson here is simple: if you use reusable shopping bags, whether they’re shiny recycled plastic, sustainable jute or hemp, or regular cotton, the bag needs to be washed or disinfected regularly. Cloth bags can be thrown in the wash, and plastic bags can be wiped down with bleach or vinegar.