What's in your bag? Reusable bags can make you sick

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Whether you're being environmentally friendly or like them as fashion accessories, reusable bags are hot items.

But, the totes can bring home a nasty problem that no family wants to deal with. There are some simple ways to stay safe, and it's all about what's in the bag?

When Bridgette Boudreaux loads up her two kids for a trip to the grocery store, she also has her collection of shopping bags ready to go.

She said, "I grab this one thing and they all come with me," as she pointed to a clip holding several bags on the side of her shopping cart.

She's not alone. Reusable shopping bags are regularly growing in popularity.

Katy Petrik's love of reusable bags actually stems from her feelings on plastic. "Because I hate plastic, and they seem to multiply in my closet," she said.

They're convenient and they're green. They can potentially save hundreds, if not thousands of plastic bags, with a reusable shopping bag. But is it germ free, before you put your food in it?

The Centers for Disease Control found they're not always the cleanest. Research revealed the fabric totes can actually make you sick.

Bridgette said, "I don't ever wash my bags, but I don't allow meat to go in my bags, only produce and canned goods and stuff like that. So, if I get meat, I have them put them in the disposable bags so I can throw them away."

Separation is a good way to cut down on the spread of germs like Salmonella or E. Coli. In fact, Katy said, "I use one bag for produce, just because I don't like to put all the produce in plastic bags, so I try not to use all the extra plastic bags. We wash our produce really good."

But, you should also clean your bags. Katy's response to that was, "Are we suppose to? They go in the closet after we're done and they come back out every Monday for the shopping trip."

Yes, the CDC says the cloth ones can go in the wash with your laundry, and the plastic lined bags simply need scrubbing with hot water and soap.

Katy also said she uses them for everything. They are handy, but the CDC recommends the grocery bags only go to the store. Don't pack the same bag with baby bottles, toys, or others things for your family.

Bridgette said, I have a library bag that's specifically for library books, because I feel like library books are more germy than any other books."

Where you keep those bags is also important. Storing them in a cool, dry place is best, not in your car where the warmer temperatures help bacteria grow faster.

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