Reusable grocery bags might be kind to Mother Earth, but if they're not properly maintained they can be pretty terrible on your tummy. A paltry 15 percent of American users wash said bags on a regular basis, giving bacteria the perfect spot to take up residence, thrive and eventually wreak havoc [source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics].
This is yet another sordid case of cross-contamination because meat juices can easily leak into the bag, or otherwise germ-ridden foods/packaging can make the transfer. Before you run screaming back to plastic, heed this: this little catastrophe can be prevented by following a couple of simple steps. Most grocery baggers are savvy enough to wrap raw meat products in a plastic bag before stowing them in your reusable, so make sure to take the same route when you find yourself doing the legwork. Then, be sure to thoroughly wash your reusable bags on a regular basis to prevent or eliminate the buildup of germs. Cloth bags can be put through the laundry, while a thorough washing with hot, soapy water followed by a complete air-dry is ideal for plastic-lined totes [source: Foodsafety.gov].