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Study: Reusable Grocery Bags and Bacteria

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, June 25, 2010 12:57 PM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Foodborne Illness, Bacteria, Plastics, E. Coli, Coliform

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IMAGE SOURCE: Green grocery bag/ image from Consumer Affairs Web site

Wash those Bags!

Consumers who try to be green and bring their own grocery bags to the store may be using less plastic but may also be endangering their health.

A study out of the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University finds that the reusable, cloth-like grocery bags, sometimes harbor dangerous foodborne bacteria.

The researchers found that 97 percent of consumers were unaware of the need to wash and bleach the reusable bags.

Nearly every bag had bacteria, among them coliform bacteria, which comes from raw meat. E.coli was found in about 12 percent of the bags.

The American Chemistry Council, a group that represents industry, funded the research, though both universities say that did not influence the report.

The lobby opposes a proposal that California ban single-use plastic bags, California Assembly Bill 1998.

Co-author of the report, Ryan Sinclair, Ph.D., a professor at Loma Linda University's School of Public Health tells ConsumerAffairs.com, "a sudden or significant increase in use of reusable bags without a major public education campaign on how to reduce cross contamination would create the risk of significant adverse public health impact."

What Consumers Can Do

A thorough washing of the bags kills nearly all of the bacteria.

Consumers should be sure to separate raw foods that may leak from other food products.

Keep the bags out of the trunk or rear of your car where hot temperatures provide a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Do not use the bags for multiple purposes such as carrying books or clothes for the gym.

The report entitled, “ - Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags" suggests that state and local government should launch a public education campaign to warn consumers about the risks involved and prevention methods. #


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