Study says reusable shopping bags harbor E. Coli

June 25, 2010 7:13:51 PM PDT
People are being warned after a study revealed a new risk from using reusable shopping bags

Reusable shopping bags have become a statement about going green and saving resources, but according to this study, people should not hold back on the soap and water.

It is official. Our world has become a slightly more dangerous place for this, blame yourselves. A study out of the University of Arizona shows that your shopping bag is probably loaded with E. Coli.

97 percent of grocery shoppers told researchers that they never wash or bleach their reusable bags, nor do they worry about germs. According to the study, they should. Unwashed reusable bags, it says, are E. Coli magnets and breeding farms.

"Those were somewhat surprising to find because they are an indicator of fecal pollution or mammalian defecation," explained Dr. Ryan Sinclair at Loma Linda University.

The study looked at grocery bags in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Tuscon, and found that half of them contain the deadly bacteria. This did not surprise checker Willie Mar at San Francisco's Cal Mart, who describes some of the bags going through his store as being severely lacking in hygiene.

"They usually leave them in the backs of their cars and then they use them again and again. And, nobody thinks about washing those things," he said.

Then again, you may want to consider the dirty bag study in proper perspective, because funding for it came from the American Chemistry Council which represents plastic bag makers, among others. They, in turn, are fighting a bill in California's state assembly that would ban the use of plastic bags.

'Well, it's definitely a diversion by the plastic industry. This study was funded by the plastic industry and they are trying to divert away from the fact that they produce 19 billion plastic bags that are distributed in California, far too many of which are littered," said Bryan Early with Californians Against Waste.

Despite the American Chemistry Council's underwriting of this project, it' authors are all well-respected researchers. They say they conducted the study independently of that organization.

The bottom line in all of this is wash your reusable grocery bags once in a while, maybe once a week. A little bit of bleach will not hurt the green.


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