A survey from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows less than one in six Americans are regularly washing reusable food totes. Experts say that means in addition to your groceries, you might also be loading up on your risk for a food-borne disease.
"I think a lot of people are trying to be mindful and eco-friendly by using their totes and they are not realizing that a lot of cross-contamination with the foods they are buying is actually happening directly because of the totes and the canvas material that they are made from," said Registered Dietician and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics national Spokesperson Marjorie Nolan.
Forty-eight million Americans are affected by food poisoning each year because of harmful pathogens like salmonella and E. Coli. Un-washed grocery bags can harbor cross-contamination in many forms.
"One is as simple as setting your bag down on the floor or on dirty counter tops," Nolan said. "Also, when you think about perishable goods, they sweat especially in the heat or the summertime when you are transporting your groceries. So the sweat from dairy products or eggs as well as meats, especially raw meats is highly contaminable."
There are some simple ways to keep help keep bacteria at bay including frequently washing grocery totes with hot, soapy water, cleaning all surfaces where you put your bags like the kitchen counter, storing totes in a clean, dry area, and wrapping raw meats and fish in plastic bags before placing them with other groceries -- or even using completely separate bags to hold raw meats and fish only.
For many New Yorkers, there's also the challenge of what to do with the bags once they start to pile up in your cabinets. A helpful tip: Don't throw them out. Organize them and use them to rotate in and out so you don't have to use them again before your next load of laundry.
Bags with a plastic coating can also be wiped down with anti-bacterial spray.
For more tips you can visit www.homefoodsafety.org.