Bags for life could be the death of us
It might be better for the environment – but reusing your plastic shopping bags could make you sick. Stuffing your dirty gym kit – or worse – in the same bag you use for your food shopping poses a health risk, a new study shows.
High levels of mould and bacteria were found in dirty reuseable bags, some even contained faecal matter, researchers said.
A third of the bags tested contained unsafe levels of bacterial contamination, the study showed.
People should treat plastic ‘bags for life’ like kitchen chopping boards, said researcher Dr Richard Summerbell, a microbiologist. ‘People don;t think aof it like that but we shouldworry about hygene,’ he added.
Most of the shoppers’ bags tested were laess than a year old and looked clean – but had never been washed.
Almost two-thirds of them had some bacterial contamination, while new bags were found to be clean. Supermarket checkout staff mightbe transferring microbes from one bag to another, the rport said. Doctors should add reusable bags to the list of possible sources of contamination when investigating food poisoning, added Dr Summerbell.
Prof Martin Adams, an expert in food microbiology at University of Surrey, said he was not fully convinced by the findings of the Canadian research but people should still be concerned about the health implications of reusing bags.
He said: ‘It is common sence that if the bag gets wet inside or something leaks then you should clean it.’ His advice was echoed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Afairs (DEFRA), which is running a campaign to encourage shoppers to reuse their bags.
A spokeswoman added: ‘We wouldn’t recommend using your shopping bags for carrying around dirty gym gear or dirty nappies.’