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‘Reusable’ Grocery Bags Carry Bacteria!

We almost missed these appetizing tidings from the Los Angeles Times:

What’s in your shopping bag? Bacteria. (But, hey, it’s natural!)

By Tami Dennis

June 24, 2010

Shopping bags Way to go, all you planet-saving shoppers who’ve made the switch to reusable bags! But consider: "Reusable" doesn’t mean "self-cleaning."

Researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University queried shoppers headed into grocery stores in California and Arizona, asking them if they wash those reusable bags. The researchers were likely met with a lot of blank looks. Most shoppers — 97%, in fact — reported that they do not regularly, if ever, wash the bags.

Further, three-fourths acknowledged that they don’t use separate bags for meats and for vegetables, and about a third said they used the bags for, well, all sorts of things (storing snacks, toting books). You can see where this is going.

The researchers tested 84 of the bags for bacteria. They found whopping amounts in all but one bag, and coliform bacteria (suggesting raw-meat or uncooked-food contamination) in half. And yes, the much-feared E. coli was among them — in 12% of the bags.

Here’s the full report, Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags. And more on food-borne illness from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers wrote in their discussion of the findings:

"It is estimated that there are about 76,000,000 cases of foodborne illness in the United States every year. Most of these illnesses originate in the home from improper cooking or handling of foods. Reusable bags, if not properly washed between uses, create the potential for cross-contamination of foods. This potential exists when raw meat products and foods traditionally eaten uncooked (fruits and vegetables) are carried in the same bags, either together or between uses. This risk can be increased by the growth of bacteria in the bags."

The study, funded by the American Chemistry Council, is being offered up as context in discussions about a California bill, AB 1998, that would ban single-use plastic bags, which — it must be acknowledged — do tend to have little potential for bacterial contamination.

But the researchers also assessed the effectiveness of washing the bags. Way to go, researchers! Good news on that front: Machine washing or hand washing reduced bacteria levels to almost nothing.

Where are the lawyers and the class action lawsuits?

Still, what could be more ‘natural’ than food poisoning?

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, June 24th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

13 Responses to “‘Reusable’ Grocery Bags Carry Bacteria!”

  1. canary says:

    Those environmental extremists that do, are killing us. If I see anyone use them, I will ask them loud enough for everyone in line if they washed their bags, if not explain their bags are spreading germs & disease, and add the democrats are fearmongers. Then insist the store clerk wash down the counter.

    Those bags would be excellent for making booms to absorb the oil.
    I couldn’t understand not lining the shore with hay bales, the older dryer ones get disposed, when I saw those troops standing trying to hold up those air-filters against the waves.
    Then I saw a flat-bed with those big round bales, and thought how much better. They could be rolled as they absorb. It would take some cranes as one could absorb a ton.
    They want the oil there, because they going to use it for plastic, etc. It will not be legal plastic in California, because of their present laws on plastic already in place.

  2. Chuckk says:

    They say exposure to bacteria helps build the immune system. Maybe that’s what the greenies have in mind. Hahaha!

  3. proreason says:

    “E. coli was among them — in 12% of the bags”

    evolution never ends

  4. CIV says:

    I’ve been using reusable bags for years — before all the stores started giving out (or selling) “green” bags. The checkers often thank me, saying they hate touching the filthy “green” bags most people bring in.

    Mine are made of plain cotton and are thrown in the wash regularly. The “green” ones are made of who-knows-what and look like they wouldn’t survive a wash cycle. But of course, the “green” bags proudly proclaim the user as being “kind to the earth” or some such nonsense (along with a store ad), while my bags say… nothing.

    I bought ’em because they seemed practical and they don’t break like some of the plastic ones do. Now I learn that I may have saved my family lots of unpleasant sickness. LOL Imagine! A smart conservative. Who’d have thunk it?

  5. fallingpianos says:

    All they need to do now is a bacteria study on the hippies who carry these reusable bags.

  6. Steve says:

    Here are the reusable shopping bags my wife and I use:

    Pearl River Mart Product

    Not sure how bacteria-free they are.

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