0 by Allison Leahy on April 26, 2011
Remember last summer's plastics-industry funded study concerned with the contamination of reusable bags? It revealed that the vast majority (97% of those interviewed) don't wash their reusable grocery bags. Gasp! This is the root cause of their contamination by coliform bacteria and the notorious E. coli.
For those who can't recall, the study went something like this:
Researchers from the American Chemistry Council tested 84 bags and found half of them contained coliform bacteria and 12 percent had E. coli, the bacteria most often linked to food poisoning. Coliform bacteria is not really a threat, it is a natural resident of healthy soil and vegetation and is not likely to cause illness. Most E. coli are harmless as well (and already living in your intestines). E. coli O157:H7, however, may have you hovering over the toilet bowl.
Unfortunately, the study didn't specify whether this particular strain was present in any of those 84 bags. And, while I don't expect there to be an outbreak of illness or disease, even as more people embrace the bring-your-own-bag ethic, I'll still spread the gospel of good reusable bag hygeine.
Get in the habit: Scrubbing out those grocery bags (and any other surface fresh foods touch) is good practice. And, try not to leave them in your car trunk, bacteria breed much faster at higher temperatures.
The top photo is of a 40% post-consumer recycled content plastic grocery bag fabricated by Hilex Poly, the sponsor of the above video and one of America's largest plastic bag manufacturers. See my post at Earth & Industry to take a look inside their Bag-2-Bag recycling facility.
About the Author:
Allison Leahy is a freelancer who writes with the aim of furthering the dialogue on sustainability, climate change, and global health. She is a graduate of Vassar College and currently lives in San Francisco, California. Her interests include bikes, music, yoga, and beer. Find Allison on Google+
Follow Allison Leahy on Twitter: @CatabolicMystic