Edmonton, Ontario New research funded by the Environment and Plastics Industry Council suggested that while reusable shopping bags may help save the environment, they pose a public health risk.
According to an article in The Calgary Herald, the study, called "A Microbiological Study of Reusable Grocery Bags," found that the bags contained unacceptably high levels of bacterial, yeast, mold and coliform counts. Some bags contained fecal matter.
“The main risk is food poisoning,” said Richard Summerbell, director of research at Sporometrics, a Toronto-based environmental microbiology laboratory, who evaluated the study results.
The warm, dark, folded interiors of bags exposed to food and liquid spills are breeding grounds for bacteria, yeast, mold and coliforms and can be transferred from bag to bag by supermarket staff, he warned.
Twenty-five reusable bags were tested in March and April -- including 23 used bags obtained from shoppers and two bags two and three years old. Four never-used bags were also tested as control samples. Single-use plastic shopping bags were also swabbed.