Have you heard the latest? There maybe something else for us to worry about besides hurricanes and bed bugs… reusable grocery bags.
It has been reported that those reusable bags we bring to the grocery checkout when we shop, are not safe. According to research funded by the American Chemistry Council, those eco friendly bags are full of bacteria that can make us very sick.
You believed you were doing your part to save the planet by going green at the supermarket. Every week you bring your own trendy cloth or polypropylene bags to the check-out counter and pack up your newly purchased food. All this time you might be putting yourself and your family at risk.
You understand that the plastic bags the store uses can take hundreds of years to naturally degrade and you do not want to add to the pollution problem. Besides, your fresh fruit and vegetables do look very nice in cloth bags.
However, there is a downside to this eco-friendly behavior. Your reusable bags may harbor nasty microbes that may cross contaminate the newly purchased food you bring home.
In a study funded by the American Chemistry Council, researchers intercepted shoppers in California and Arizona and tested their reusable bags for pathogenic bacteria. They collected 84 bags from shoppers, sometimes 5 or 6 from the same shopper.
Researchers were looking for Listeria, E.coli and Salmonella bacteria but did not find any. They did however find some other bacteria, the same varieties one would encounter by eating packaged salad greens. A normal person would not be affected by these bacteria, but someone with a weakened immune system could be.
The media quickly responded that reusable bags were a health hazard with such headlines as, “Paper, plastic or E.coli,” “Recycle at your own risk” and “Beware the Green Reusable Grocery Bag.”
However do not believe everything you read. There is a degree of truth in the report but also some untruths,
Consumer Reports investigated the research and came up with these findings.
- The research was done by the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that advocates on the behalf of plastic bag manufacturers.
- These folks just might want to cast doubts upon the safety of reusable bags.
- Testing only 84 bags is hardly a credible amount of research to validate their findings.
- The bacteria that were found are found in lots of places one encounters daily.
- There is no need to panic or stop using reusable bags.
However, Consumer Reports does recommend a few things from the study.
- Bacteria from meat, fish or poultry can contaminate a reusable bag and spread to other foods. It is best to carry meat, fish and poultry in separate plastic bags (which can be returned to the store later for recycling.)
- Reusable bags are fine for most everything else, but it’s a good idea to wash the bags frequently. Labels are being put on the inside of reusable bags advising this.
- Always wash fruits and vegetables before eating and wash your hands before and after handling food.
Better Homes and Gardens Magazine