Monday | April 27, 2015
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Tips to keep those reusable bags clean

Hilo resident Jade Terao said she often tries to remember to clean her reusable bag after shopping, but sometimes it’s not that easy.

“I try to wash my bag after each use, but sometimes it’s at the bottom of the list of things to do,” she said while shopping at Sack N’ Save in downtown Hilo on Tuesday afternoon. “If worse comes to worst, I’ll just buy a new one.”

Julia M.K. Zee, State Extension Nutrition and Health Program leader, said that’s a good plan.

“… You could get into cross contamination with bacteria if your bags are not cleaned, so it’s important to keep them clean or wash them. With woven or polypropylene bag, they’re not easy to wash, but they’re only a couple dollars and should be thrown away if they get too dirty,” she said.

Adjusting to the bag ban that went into effect earlier this month has some Big Island residents questioning the cleanliness of using reusable bags.

Lynn Nakamura-Tengan, who works with the Extension Food Safety Education, said it’s important for Big Island patrons to take the issue into their own hands.

“Ultimately, the consumer is making the choice to use the bag,” she said. “You have to be aware of the safety issue, both for the consumer and for the business you’re supporting.”

Nakamura-Tengan works on Maui and said her office started looking into educating the public about reusable bag cleanliness when Kauai first adopted the ban.

At the time, she said, the Big Island was looking into the issue and that’s when her department drafted a document to inform the public about how to prevent the spread of bacteria, yeast and mold as well as preventing cross-contamination while shopping.

According to the document found online, purchasers should start by washing and storing the bags safely between each use. Also, it’s important for consumers to follow the care instructions for their bags and make sure the bags are dry before storing them anywhere.

The document also recommends you use separate bags for your raw meats, seafood and produce and label the bags to avoid confusion.

Another suggestion is avoiding storing your bags in your car trunk. The document states “this is a dark, warm and often humid environment that promotes bacteria growth. It’s recommended instead that you store your bags at home in a cool dry environment where air can circulate.”

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