A proposed ban on plastic or paper bags in grocery stores in favor of reusable bags is a bad idea. Reusable bags pose serious health risks, and that information is becoming more prevalent daily.
A 2011 study from scientists at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found bacteria in 99 percent of bags tested; half carried coliform bacteria, while 8 percent carried E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination.
In addition, microbiologists also have found salmonella and other harmful bacteria in reusable bags. A separate study published in 2012 traced a norovirus outbreak among a girls soccer team from Oregon from a reusable bag. These bags are attracting and harboring bacteria from food sources as well as contaminated shopping carts, especially the child’s seat section in the cart.
Granted, the solution would be to wash the bags — it is recommended that the bags be treated like the dirtiest laundry and washed in hot water at least 140 degrees with a strong detergent and disinfectant at least three times a week — but then that leads to another discussion about adding phosphates to the environment as well as the wasted energy used to wash and dry the bags.
If, however, reusable bags are not sanitized properly after each use, they can harbor dangerous bacteria. Unfortunately, the same study found only 3 percent of shoppers with multiuse bags said they regularly washed them.
The government is regulating as always with the “best intentions,” but we should move with caution before we create an army of people spreading bacteria throughout the region.