The Downside of Reusable Grocery Bags

You know those reusable cloth bags that environmentally-conscious shoppers proudly tote to the grocery store? It turns out they may be making you sick. A journalist in Denver set about testing a variety of reusable cloth bags for bacteria, and the results aren’t pretty. Several of the bags had low to moderate levels of bacteria, while two bags had much higher levels. “Wow. Wow. That is pretty impressive,” said Dr. Michelle Baron, an infectious disease expert at the University of Colorado Hospital. “We’re talking in the million range of bacteria.” The solution? Wash the bags after each use. (HT: Stuart Roy) [%comments]

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  1. DC says:

    So what? Are we licking the bags when we bring them home?

    Bacteria are everywhere. Why would grocery bags suddenly have to be sterile? Besides, virtually everything that we toss into reusable bags comes in its own packaging—sometimes several layers worth. If anything is thrown in “naked,” such as a stray apple or head of broccoli, just wash before using. Don’t you do that anyway?

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  2. chris says:

    Here’s and idea, instead of washing the bags, wash the fruit and veggies and try not to eat the packaging for you packaged food. I know cardboard tastes good and all, but for the children…

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  3. Lisa says:

    what are people putting their garbage in???? I see people using recycled bags but purchasing plastic bags for their garbage. Does this not defeat the purpose?

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  4. Ghost says:

    Washing the reusable bag does not use up more resources.

    You don’t wash the reusable bag by itself.

    It’s called Economies Of Scale — you wash the reusable bag with your regular laundry, so that no additional water or energy is consumed beyond what you would have used anyway for the regular laundry.


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  5. Greg says:

    Does the bacteria pose a problem? We do have an immune system – it works pretty well for the most part. Give it a try.

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  6. JB says:

    Two points:

    1) I didn’t read the study, but is there any comparison of the bacteria levels of reusable bags versus used paper/plastic bags? I would imagine it would be difficult finding disposable bags to test.

    2) All of the comments about the inefficiency of washing the bags assumes you are putting on a load of laundry with just the bags in them. Most likely you would add them to an already existing load, which would use a very marginal amount of extra resources

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  7. brent says:

    I bet my bags are disgusting! I pick up packaged meat and put it in all the time, with other stuff.

    Time for a hot water bleach washing . . .

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  8. bruce says:

    These bags never made any sense from an environmental or convenience perspective. The emperor has no clothes…

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