Researchers claim reusable grocery bags contain bacteria
July 5, 2010
Researchers at Loma Linda University and the University of Arizona have found that reusable shopping bags, long championed by environmentalists, contain large amounts of bacteria, posing a risk that food could become cross-contaminated. [San Gabriel Tribune]
The new findings come as Sacramento debates a bill that would ban single-use shopping bags–paper or plastic–in favor of the more environmentally-friendly reusable bags.
Researchers discovered reusable bags are almost never cleaned and that bacteria in reusable bags are capable of increasing 10-fold in an automobile’s trunk within two hours.
The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), passed the state Senate last month and is now awaiting a vote in the Assembly. Gov. Schwarzengger says he will sign the bill, if passed.
Proponents of the bill say it would save Californians some of the $25 million spent each year on cleaning up bag litter.
San Francisco, Fairfax, Palo Alto and Malibu have all passed ordinances regulating bags and some 40 communities in California are considering ordinances.
Although there has never been a documented case where someone has gotten food poisoning from cross-contamination via a reusable bag, it’s not an unlikely scenario, said Ryan G. Sinclair, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Loma Linda University School of Public Health.
Sinclair said he conducted much of his research by interviewing people at a local Farmers Market. Some 95 percent of reusable shopping bag owners told Sinclair they never washed out their bag.
Washing the bags and letting them thoroughly dry once a week would dramatically drop bacterial counts, Sinclair said.