Are Reusable Grocery Bags Really Icky Bacteria Farms?

You may recall late last month when wrote about a study that purported to find some nasty bacteria being harbored in the fabric of reusable, cloth shopping bags. While we just said this means y’all should wash your bags more frequently, our science-minded siblings at Consumer Reports decided to take a closer look at the study itself.

First off, says CR, is to consider the source of the study. More precisely, consider the source of funding for the study, which in this case came from the American Chemistry Council.

Says Consumer Reports:

The American Chemistry Council is the trade group that advocates on behalf of plastic-bag manufacturers. Now why would the folks who make plastic grocery bags want to cast doubts on the safety of reusable grocery bags? Oh, right.

Next, CR took issue with the sample size of the study. The researchers only looked at a grand total of 84 reusable bags, which one could argue is not a sufficient sample size for a study on grocery bags, given the number of them in use and the various ways in which people use, store and clean them.

And then there’s the findings themselves, which made a big deal about finding E. coli in about 12% of the bags. According to CR, none of the strains of E. coli discovered would normally make someone sick.

A CR food-safety expert puts it this way:

A person eating an average bag of salad greens gets more exposure to these bacteria than if they had licked the insides of the dirtiest bag from this study… These bacteria can be found lots of places, so no need to go overboard.

The one thing CR does agree with the study on is that you should probably not use reusable bags to carry packages of uncooked meat, fish or poultry.

Can reusable grocery bags make you sick, or is that just baloney? [Consumer Reports]