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July 6, 2010: Study Suggests Reusable Shopping Bags Can Be Breeding Grounds For Bacteria

Reusable grocery bags have become increasingly popular as an environmentally friendly alternative to disposable plastic grocery bags. However, a recent study suggests that these reusable bags may pose a serious threat to public health.

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The study, which was performed by the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California, also illustrated that the vast majority of consumers are completely unaware of these risks.  

When researchers randomly tested reusable grocery bags carried by shoppers in Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, they detected harmful pathogens in an alarming 50 percent of the bags. E. coli was found in approximately 12 percent of the bags tested. Researchers involved in the study indicated that the levels of bacteria found in the bags were significant enough to cause a wide range of serious health problems and even death. The bacteria can be particularly dangerous for small children, who are especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses.  

Researchers explained that reusable bags create the potential for cross-contamination of foods, such as when raw meat products are carried in the same bag as foods that are traditionally eaten uncooked. This potential for cross-contamination exists whether those foods are carried in the bag together at one time or carried separately, if the bag has not been washed between uses.  

According to Charles Gerba, a UA professor and co-author of the study, thoroughly washing the bags effectively kills nearly all of the accumulated bacteria. Unfortunately, the study found that 97 percent of the shoppers interviewed had never washed or bleached their reusable bags.  

The report, “Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags,” offered a list of tips for consumers who use reusable grocery bags as well as policy recommendations for lawmakers.  

The Law Firm of Eric H. Weinberg would like to remind consumers that the best way to stay healthy is to follow safe food handling, preparation, and storage practices and above all, stay informed. For further information about E. coli, please see E. coli Lawyer and E. coli Symptoms.

To learn about recent food poisoning outbreaks, please see Salmonella Lawyer, Shigella Lawyer, and Listeria Lawsuit.  If you have been injured as a result of E. coli food poisoning and you have a question concerning your legal rights, please call us toll free at 1-877-934-6274 or click Free Legal Case Evaluation.

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