Reusable bag risk: Study
By THE CANADIAN PRESS
Last Updated: 21st May 2009, 3:35am
The growing popularity of reusable grocery bags could pose a health risk to Canadians by increasing their exposure to dangerous bacteria, says a study commissioned by the plastics industry released yesterday.
The Canadian Plastics Industry Association hired two independent labs to conduct what it said was the first study of so-called eco-friendly grocery bags in North America, and found 64% of them were contaminated with some level of bacteria.
Forty per cent of the reusable bags tested had yeast or mould, and some had detectable levels of coliforms and fecal intestinal bacteria when there should have been none, said Dr. Richard Summerbell, who was commissioned to evaluate the lab findings.
The problem is similar to a situation where bacteria can be transferred from kitchen countertops and cutting boards to foods, and the more waterproof the reusable bag is, the more likely it is to become a breeding ground for bacteria, Summerbell said.
"Something that's a plastic weave, it takes longer for the moisture level to drop down, and so you can get what microbiologists call a bio-film building up ... a population of bacteria and possibly some yeasts, or even in severe cases, mould growth as well," he said.
"The main actual hazard involved is if there's a little bit of spillage in there from some meat or some eggs, then food-poisoning organisms could be transferred over to other food."
Summerbell said people need to clean their reusable grocery bags.