E. coli, germs in reusable shopping bags could kill us, study says

The law of the modern world states that any idea, especially those that sound really good at the time, has to be debunked, ripped apart and/or otherwise examined at length to find out how it can injure or kill us.

Produce, shrimp, meats pose dangers in reusable shopping bags/Ryn Gargulinski

Produce, shrimp, meats pose dangers in reusable shopping bags/Ryn Gargulinski

It happened with soda fountain machines.

It happened with sunshine. Heck, even driving around in our cars, especially with that left arm near the window, threatens to give us cancer.

Now cloth reusable shopping bags are the target, as these often filthy and germ-ridden things can make us sick – or worse.

A joint food-safety study from the University of Arizona and Loma University in California found “reusable grocery bags can be a breeding ground for dangerous food-borne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health,” according to a UA News report.

Researchers randomly tested reusable shopping bags used in Tucson, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Our findings suggest a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half of the bags sampled,” the report quotes Charles Gerba, UA professor of soil, water and environmental science who co-authored the study.

“Bacteria levels found in reusable bags were significant enough to cause a wide range of serious health problems and even death. They are a particular danger for young children, who are especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses.”

Bloated cheese forgotten in trunk/Ryn Gargulinski

Bloated cheese forgotten in trunk/Ryn Gargulinski

We bet the bacteria levels are most dangerous when people stuff cheese, raw chicken and bleeding pork chops into the bags and then leave them in their trunks for two weeks.

In any event, all these horrible and even fatal health problems can be averted with a simple task: wash the dang things.

That little nugget of information, of course, appears after all the hoopla about how the cloth bags can kill us.

At least the bags don’t suffocate small children.

Los Angeles, perhaps not surprisingly, had the highest levels of bacteria in the bags. Researchers say the city’s weather is ripe for bacteria growth.

California, o greenest of lands where smoking is banned on the beaches and in city parks, is also toying with the idea of banning plastic bags in stores throughout the state. Without first warning people the bags could kill them, the results could be disastrous.

One proposal is to print instructions on the reusable bags that tell users to wash or bleach the bags between uses.

Another is an all-out public education campaign that will probably cost millions of dollars and is based, pretty much, on common sense. Unless, of course, it does not seem common-sensical to wash something in which we carry produce, leaking milk and seeping raw meat.

Maybe it’s not common sense. After all, 97 percent of the folks the germ study people interviewed said they never washed or bleached their bags. Perhaps such a campaign is necessary, as is a hefty dose of Tide.

Reusable bag safety tips, courtesy of UA News:

* When using reusable bags, consumers should be careful to separate raw foods from other food products.
* Consumers should not use reusable food bags for other purposes such as carrying books or gym clothes.
* Consumers should not store meat or produce in the trunks of their cars because the higher temperature promotes growth of bacteria, which can contaminate reusable bags.


wb-logolilWhat do you think?

Are you grossed out yet?

Do you use reusable shopping bags?

Do you ever wash the bags?

What’s the most disgusting thing you found in your trunk two weeks later? (Mine was a swollen pack of Monterey Jack cheese [pictured above].)


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
This entry was posted in danger, death, environment, gross stuff, health, life, Stupidity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to E. coli, germs in reusable shopping bags could kill us, study says

  1. leftfield says:

    Who knew?  Because I am a rebel who likes to live dangerously, I will continue to flaunt death by using a reusable shopping bag.   

    Don’t even talk to me about starving children in Africa.  We here in America live with the constant danger of being undone by PC shopping in an air-conditioned and well-stocked store.  Unbeknownst to the unwitting soccer mom, she is in imminent danger of her life just driving home in her Escalade to her tony home in the foothills.  Oh, the humanity!  

    • Rynski says:

      glad you’re going to continue your rebellious streak, leftfield, and not be swayed by the threat of e. coli death next to the bloated cheese in a reusable bag.
      i, too, REALLY like the irony of it all – especially when something PC falls flat on its reusable bag straps – hahhahah.
      thanks for laughs!

  2. LADY6280 says:

    Food Safety should come First
    Recycling should not be the first thing that you might consider

    • Rynski says:

      wholly agree, lady6280!
      thanks for comment.
      i wonder if some folks really would put PC-ness and ‘save the earth’ stuff in front of their own health. you bring up a very good thinking point.

  3. azmouse says:

    Makes me miss the good ol’ brown paper bag days.

    We came up with plastic bags to save the trees, then the reusable bags to save the environment from the plastic bags, now the reusable bags aren’t being used properly.
    Can’t win for losing.  ha

    • Rynski says:

      good point, azmouse – geesh! too funny all around.
      maybe we should just stick with baskets – wire, not that environmentally dangerous plastic, of course – unless any broken wire is discarded in a non-safe way and ends up choking birds or dolphins…..

  4. koreyk says:

    Hey Ryn, just cut the white and green splotches off that bloated cheese.  It’ll be good as new.

    “igneous minister”

    • Rynski says:

      hahahahha! thanks for cheese advice, koreyk/igneous minister – but i’ll have you know i threw that away – far away! – right after the photo for fear it was about to explode.
      i thought it was bread that was still good after cutting off the splotches? hahahahah.

  5. fraser007 says:

    I always knew the PC crowd would kill us all! My god what is next, the next Black Plague comming from Birkenstocks and ponytail hairbands (for 60yr old men) Oh and that tie dye for T-Shirts is poisonous!
    How will we escape?

  6. Lisa says:

    Obviously, these bags should be washed but having bacteria on the bags shouldn’t make you sick if you WASH YOUR FOOD properly before eating. Hell, about 40% of “prewashed” salads tested positive for coliform bacteria. WASH YOUR FOOD!

  7. Penelope Starr says:

    I think its propaganda by the plastic bag manufacturers to put us off using our recycled bags.  Fight back, wash and use your own bags!  I have some that are 30 years old and going strong.

  8. Alan Melroy (Alan from Kent WA says:

    Obviously, the solution is to pass a law making it illegal for bacteria and other flora and fauna to grow in the bags.  If that doen’t work, tax the protozona to death for contributing carbon to the atmosphere.  That is the way we would deal with it in the People’s Republic of Seattle.

  9. Rynski says:

    great reminder, lisa, on washing food before eating – EVEN WHEN the grapes look so scrumptious that we don’t think we can wait one more second….
    penelope – i LOVE your theory on plastic bag company propaganda – and how coool you have bags that have lasted 30 years. wow. that’s a HECK of a lot of plastic.
    alan from kent WA – your solution is the best i’ve heard yet – hahahhahahahahahha

  10. Uncle Genie says:

    I thought the plastic bags were reusable. I reuse them, at least once.

    Nothing negative about cloth bags, but has anyone done a resource use differential between washing cloth bags after every use versus the manufacture and disposal of plastic bags? I shop a couple times a week but only do laundry, uh, how often is it exactly that blue moons occur?

    I hate the litter drifts and fence displays of carelessly discarded plastic shopping bags. But I  don’t think privately-owned personal bags are the answer; they require way too much planning, prep and tote time to be practical. More likely, as the cited study demonstrates, they’ll be risky.

    Let the retailers suppy a reusable bag that can be returned for deposit (cash or store credit)  and the retailer can contract for cleaning the bags en batche, so to speak.

  11. John Kennedy says:

    Makes sense to wash the bags, but then again I sterilize my toothbrush.

  12. Green Sentiments is a supplier of reusable, eco-friendly jute bags.
    Choosing a reusable jute bag is one way to take responsibility for minimizing waste and for using resources in a sustainable way thereby avoiding large landfills which affect the environment and wildlife. Plastic bags are becoming a global problem. There’re adding to landfill and affecting the world’s wildlife. That’s why more and more customers are choosing eco-friendly alternatives. http://www.greensentiments.com

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