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Is It Food-Safe to Skip the Plastic Produce Bags at the Supermarket?

Going plastic-free might be environmentally friendly, but the grocery stores have a dirty secret. Luckily, the solution is sustainable — and sanitary.
If you've grocery shopped lately, you know many stores are shifting away from the plastic to be more environmentally conscious. Used, or eliminating them entirely. After all, people use the billions of plastic bags each year and only 9 percent of them are recycled.

Many shoppers want to do their part, too. Using reusable bags is a great place to start, but some customers are also abandoning the thin, single-use plastic bags for produce. Although, they still buy oranges in mesh bags. But this no-bag practice might have a drawback — a very unsanitary one.

Is it safe to skip the bag?
Well, not exactly. While it seems like it's more sustainable when you place Broccoli or apples directly onto the conveyor belt, your food isn't just touching one surface — it's touching everything that came before it. The person in front of you could have dirty cash before picking up your bushel of kale.

The dirty truth is that the grocery stores are not the cleanest places. Tote bag company Reuse this bag of traditional grocery store cart has 73,356 CFU, or colony-forming units, per square inch — that is almost 361 times more bacteria than is present on a doorknob bathroom. That's why supermarket produce ranks as one of the dirtiest surfaces in 12 places you go all the time.

The checkout conveyor belt isn't much better. Think of every day, every week and every year. And while the PVC material they're made from can last up to 30 years, the surface is porous and hard to keep clean — even with constant scrubbing.

Finally, consider not just what you produce is touching, but who has touched it. Grocery store staff, cashiers, and other customers all come into contact with it and go bagless increases the exposure. And that factor in people (and potentially animals) who touched it before it got to the store.


Alternatives to plastic bags
Luckily, you can help protect the planet while protecting your produce. You can buy reusable nylon, cotton or mesh bags like these. Just remember to give all your eco-friendly bags — both for good and clean — a good clean base. Plus, it was pre-washed produce isn't ready-to-eat — which is one of the 14 shocking things you never knew about grocery store produce.

If you're buying nuts, flour, or other bulk foods, you can use a mason jar — just write down the weight of the vessel so it doesn't add to the price. For spices or dried herbs, clean out an old glass spice container, or buy a new one from the store. You can reuse them each time you need to stock up.

Keeping it clean
Ultimately, no matter what you do, it will most likely come into contact with dirt and germs. It is a good rule of thumb to clean your fruit and veggies (even if you buy organic!) Before preparing them. Different produce has different needs, from so to scrubbing to a gentle Rinse. 

Washing them all the mistakes you probably did not know you were making. And just because it produces peel isn't eaten, like lemon or avocado, it doesn't mean you should skip rinsing. (Kim Bussing)

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Is It Food-Safe to Skip the Plastic Produce Bags at the Supermarket?

Kim Bussing

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