The growing popularity of reusable grocery bags could represent a health risk to Canadians by increasing their exposure to dangerous bacteria, says a study commissioned by the plastics industry released yesterday.
The Canadian Plastics Industry Association hired two independent labs to conduct what it said was the first study of so-called eco-friendly grocery bags in North America, and found 64 per cent of them were contaminated with some level of bacteria.
Forty per cent of the reusable bags tested had yeast or mould, and some had detectable levels of coliforms and fecal intestinal bacteria when there should have been none, said Dr. Richard Summerbell, who was commissioned to evaluate the lab findings.
The problem is similar to a situation where bacteria can be transferred from kitchen countertops and cutting boards to foods, and the more waterproof the reusable bag is, the more likely it is to become a breeding ground for bacteria, Summerbell said.
“The main actual hazard involved is if there’s a little bit of spillage in there from some meat or some eggs, then food-poisoning organisms could be transferred over to other food.”
The World Wildlife Fund, which worked with grocery chains to convince retailers to charge five cents for each plastic bag to discourage use, said the concerns raised in the study could be addressed by washing the reusable bags.