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Cleaning reusable grocery bags advised, and not just because of Covid-19

HEB allows them in store, but not for curbside pickup

SAN ANTONIO – Reusable bags for groceries are good for the environment, but Consumer Reports says it’s important to clean and disinfect them, and not just because of concerns about the the new coronavirus.

“Some people may not realize, but reusable bags can get pretty dirty,” said Sana Mujahid, of Consumer Reports. “Bacteria and viruses like E. coli, salmonella and norovirus can contaminate the bags and that could make you sick.”

But it’s Covid-19 that has people anxious and taking extra precautions.

A few states, including Illinois and New Hampshire, as well as some cities like San Francisco, have temporarily banned the use of reusable bags.

Locally, H-E-B is no longer allowing customers to bring reusable bags to curbside orders, but continues to allow reusable bags in the stores.

“Our partners continue to maintain the highest standards of sanitation and hygiene, which extends to the handling of reusable bags,” H-E-B said in a statement to KSAT 12 News.

Target is allowing customers to bring reusable bags into the stores, but will refrain from handling them, leaving customers to bag their own purchases, according to the company’s website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not issued guidelines specific to reusable bags. Studies have shown that the coronavirus can remain on plastics up to 72 hours and less time on fabrics. While theoretically, bags could be carriers, epidemiologists say the primary way the virus is transmitted is person to person, by coughing, sneezing and spreading droplets.

Consumer Reports advises cleaning reusable bags, preferably after every use. The technique depends on the type of bag.

“For fabric bags, you can just toss them in the laundry,” Mujahid said. “For the reusable plastic bags, wipe them down with a disinfecting wipe or spray or by washing them in warm soapy water.”

Be sure to let plastic bags air dry completely.

Bottom line, clean your bags, wash your hands and practice social distancing.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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