The law of the modern world states that any idea, especially those that sound really good at the time, has to be debunked, ripped apart and/or otherwise examined at length to find out how it can injure or kill us.

Produce, shrimp, meats pose dangers in reusable shopping bags/Ryn Gargulinski

Produce, shrimp, meats pose dangers in reusable shopping bags/Ryn Gargulinski

It happened with soda fountain machines.

It happened with sunshine. Heck, even driving around in our cars, especially with that left arm near the window, threatens to give us cancer.

Now cloth reusable shopping bags are the target, as these often filthy and germ-ridden things can make us sick – or worse.

A joint food-safety study from the University of Arizona and Loma University in California found “reusable grocery bags can be a breeding ground for dangerous food-borne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health,” according to a UA News report.

Researchers randomly tested reusable shopping bags used in Tucson, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Our findings suggest a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half of the bags sampled,” the report quotes Charles Gerba, UA professor of soil, water and environmental science who co-authored the study.

“Bacteria levels found in reusable bags were significant enough to cause a wide range of serious health problems and even death. They are a particular danger for young children, who are especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses.”

Bloated cheese forgotten in trunk/Ryn Gargulinski

Bloated cheese forgotten in trunk/Ryn Gargulinski

We bet the bacteria levels are most dangerous when people stuff cheese, raw chicken and bleeding pork chops into the bags and then leave them in their trunks for two weeks.

In any event, all these horrible and even fatal health problems can be averted with a simple task: wash the dang things.

That little nugget of information, of course, appears after all the hoopla about how the cloth bags can kill us.

At least the bags don’t suffocate small children.

Los Angeles, perhaps not surprisingly, had the highest levels of bacteria in the bags. Researchers say the city’s weather is ripe for bacteria growth.

California, o greenest of lands where smoking is banned on the beaches and in city parks, is also toying with the idea of banning plastic bags in stores throughout the state. Without first warning people the bags could kill them, the results could be disastrous.

One proposal is to print instructions on the reusable bags that tell users to wash or bleach the bags between uses.

Another is an all-out public education campaign that will probably cost millions of dollars and is based, pretty much, on common sense. Unless, of course, it does not seem common-sensical to wash something in which we carry produce, leaking milk and seeping raw meat.

Maybe it’s not common sense. After all, 97 percent of the folks the germ study people interviewed said they never washed or bleached their bags. Perhaps such a campaign is necessary, as is a hefty dose of Tide.

Reusable bag safety tips, courtesy of UA News:

* When using reusable bags, consumers should be careful to separate raw foods from other food products.
* Consumers should not use reusable food bags for other purposes such as carrying books or gym clothes.
* Consumers should not store meat or produce in the trunks of their cars because the higher temperature promotes growth of bacteria, which can contaminate reusable bags.


wb-logolilWhat do you think?

Are you grossed out yet?

Do you use reusable shopping bags?

Do you ever wash the bags?

What’s the most disgusting thing you found in your trunk two weeks later? (Mine was a swollen pack of Monterey Jack cheese [pictured above].)