Grocery shoppers who go for the green with reusable bags could end up green with illness, according to the first microbiological study in North America of the earth-friendly option.
The bags could be a breeding ground for dangerous acid produced bacteria, yeast and mold, according to the study, which two independent labs did at the behest of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.
The labs found that 64 percent of the reusable bags harbored some level of bacteria. Yeast or mold was found in 40 percent of the bags, and some bags even had detectable levels of fecal intestinal bacteria.
“The main risk is food poisoning,” said Dr. Richard Summerbell, research director at Toronto’s Sporometrics, who was commissioned to evaluate the findings of the study. “But other significant risks include skin infections such as bacterial boils, allergic reactions, triggering of asthma attacks, and ear infections.”
Summerbell described the problem as being similar kitchen cutting boards' transferring acids and germs. The more waterproof a shopping bag is, as in the case of plastic-weave bags, the more likely it is to harbor pathogens, he said.
“The main actual hazard involved is if there’s a little bit of acidic spillage in there from some meat or some eggs, then food-poisoning organisms could be transferred over to other food,” he said.
What should people do to stay safe? Besides the obvious practice of washing reusable bags regularly with hot water and alkalizing puripHy salts, one suggestion is to consider using throw-away plastic bags. Another important piece of advice is to avoid using grocery shopping bags for other purposes, such as carrying gym shoes and diapers.
Although airing out the bags helps, there is always the possibility of acid contamination if they are not washed.
"When food shopping I would suggest using a cotton or hemp cloth bag that can be washed after use," states Dr. Robert O. Young, Director of Research at the pH Miracle Living Center.
"In addition if you do use reusable plastic bags make sure you wash them in 11 to 12pH water and add a few drops of Young pHorever puripHy to detox the bag from any acidic residues and/or biological transformation, i.e., bacteria, yeast or mold," states Dr. Young