CHICAGO, April 3 (UPI) -- Many shoppers carry groceries in reusable totes but only 15 percent wash them -- and the bags can harbor bacteria if used to transport meat, U.S. experts say.
The Home Food Safety program, a collaboration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods, said bacteria can be eliminated by:
-- Frequently washing a grocery tote, either in the washing machine or by hand with hot, soapy water.
-- Cleaning all areas where totes are placed, such as the kitchen counter. Totes, like purses, carry bacteria on the bottom.
-- Storing totes in a clean, dry location.
-- Avoiding leaving empty totes in the trunk of a vehicle.
"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," Ruth Frechman, a registered dietitian and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman, said in a statement. "Unwashed grocery bags are lingering with bacteria which can easily contaminate your food."
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, Frechman said.
"When grocery shopping, wrap meat, poultry and fish in plastic bags before placing in the tote, and use two different easy-to-identify totes; one for raw meat and one for ready-to-eat foods," Frechman advised.