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Customer Discussions > Reusable Grocery Bag forum

REUSABLE GROCERY BAGS - LONG TERM HEALTH CONCERNS


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Showing 1-23 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 7, 2008, 12:59:27 PM PDT
Jon says:
Without denying any need/reason for the growing ban on plastic grocery bags, there seems to be a major health concern affecting everyone from the reusable grocery bags.

CROSS CONTAMINATION: There is an ever present risk of cross contamination when shopping for food.

see: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome

Bringing used shopping bags in to grocery stores brings prior unknown contaminants from daily shopping such as Salmonella from meats, fish, eggs that have leaked or dripped into any one's shopping bag.

As I have seen many people use their reusable shopping bags instead of shopping carts, when they put non-contaminated food products into those same bags, they not only contaminate that person's food, but the potentially dangerous infectious is then removed by the checker scanned and run over the same surface of the scanner that you and everyone else's food passes over thereafter.

To use and encourage green recyclable bag may lead to many large outbreaks of serious food bases sicknesses and potentially death to the very young, very old and already sick members of society.

The risk would be to everyone. Our zeal to go green may have led to not thinking about the effects such a policy would bring.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2008, 11:57:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Dec 9, 2008, 8:19:49 AM PST
J. Simon says:
I work in a major grocery chain and we are regulated by the USDA constantly. We are not allowed to reuse plastic bags because of contamination threats (meijer recycles plastic which has been returned though). We can use paper, canvas and reusable bags etc... because they dry out between uses. The germs cannot live without a host for very long.

Reusable bags can be washed and are as sanitary as your linens at home. We clean our scanners frequently and also encourage our eco friendly meat eating customers to put their meat in plastic bags made from corn oil which IS biodegradable and all the Meijer grocery store have/use these bags.

From the USDA website:
The dangers of (non-biodegradable)plastic bags-
http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/ad_hoc/19000000SHE/Plastic_Bags.pdf

Heres an idea- Save the environment by not eating meat and you can eliminate using plastic wrap on your groceries if you buy whole foods. And you don't have to worry about cross contamination as a vegetarian. You will be healthier to.

Factory farms pollute the environment and you in turn as a consumer pollute further by using plastic bags to 'protect' yourself from cross contamination. To make matters worse it takes a bleach cleaner to sterilize the kitchen space in a non vegetarian kitchen. Bleach is not biodegradble.

This is why eating meat is bad for the environment:

http://www.hsus.org/farm/news/ournews/factory_farms_polluting.html

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2008, 8:29:59 AM PST
Please check out THE BETTER BAG at WWW.THEBETTER.BAG.COM. It's made from recycled material, sturdy, washable and guaranteed recyclable.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2008, 12:32:17 PM PST
Jon says:
My initial concern for health and safety was not my own reusable bag cleanliness, but rather those of other people who do not clean their reusable bags and which contain many possible contamination problems being brought back into grocery stores which will then contaminate an otherwise relatively clean and safe food sales environment.

Once a dirty contamination is brought into the store and possibly spread unknowingly, it will then cross over/cross contaminate many/every other person.

Yes, I know food stores are not 'sterile' environments, however health and safety standards for business do a great job with the incoming potential issues brought in by consumers, however by imposing mandatory reusable bags on everyone, the net overall possible food born (and other which are usually kept out as a 'rule') potential hazards will increase leading to POSSIBLE frequent local outbreaks of various illnesses.

The fact that the current standards prohibit retailers of food to reuse or use any pre-used disposable bags due to plastic being able to transmit liquid based hazards indicates the high risk of numerous plastic based reusable grocery bags being brought back and into food stores time and time again, only increases food based infection passage.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2008, 7:23:16 AM PST
S. Allen says:
This is basically BS. While there is a "slight" possibility of such cross contamination because of reusable bags it is far less than the cross contamination that every single person that enters a grocery store is subjected to by the "Grocery Cart".
A cart that everybody uses, where many put their germ ridden urchins with a loaded diaper with their hands all over the cart handle.

A cotton canvass bag or especially the bags I use which are polyester mesh (called an Ecoroot bag http://www.ecoroot.com/index.html ) which dries out between uses is very unlikely to cross contaminate anything.
We wash ours about 3X a month, I go to the grocery store about 6X a month so bag is washed about every other trip.
We wash them sometimes in the dishwasher top rack on those occasions where there is room on top rack and bottom rack is 100% full.

Want to stop KNOWN contamination problems in grocery stores? Then make it a mandatory law that all grocery carts be run through a cart washer.

http://gizmodo.com/5028161/shopping-cart-washing-machine-ensures-at-least-one-thing-in-the-grocery-store-is-safe-to-put-in-your-mouth

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2008, 9:54:25 PM PST
Steelsil says:
Shopping carts do not touch food-they touch packaging, so contamination through carts is very unlikely. For yet another alternative, see: http://biogreenproducts.biz/whyoxo.html - We hear a lot about starch based 'sustainable' plastics, but we rarely hear that they create methane in landfills, and being made of food, could starve millions if they really catch on. My paper documents this. Tim Dunn

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2008, 8:16:04 AM PST
J. Simon says:
Shoppings carts do indeed touch food. They touch all produce that is not bagged and anything with a permeable package, such as plastic (saran wrap style).

-Again using materials like canvas and muslin( for produce) to shop and carry your groceries is highly advisable because both last for yearsand have a much less wasteful effect on the Earth.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2008, 8:17:07 AM PST
J. Simon says:
great link on the cart cleaner. I would love to see this mandated for all chain grocery stores.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2008, 4:42:04 PM PST
K. Parks says:
Appreciate S. Allen's comments. I am the president of Ecoroot reusable mesh shopping bags and a 'confirmed' germ-phobic. The main reason I selected the sports poly mesh fabric for the bags is because it the material is so tough and washable -- even in the dishwasher! Being so germ-conscious, I was worried about cross contamination from reusable bags. THat's how and why I invented the Ecoroot reusable mesh bag. If you wash them as needed, there is no reason to be worried about germs. The open mesh holes allow the suds to penetrate better than the tightly woven fabrics (many of which are spot or hand wash only). As an added benefit, since they fold into a tiny, lightweight pocket, you won't leave them in the trunk of your car. Regardless of the reusable bag brand you choose, wash after meats or pesticide ridden produce and there is no reason for concern.
Kit Parks, President, Ecoroot reusable mesh bags

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2009, 2:14:01 PM PDT
Chris K says:
Jon - Can't you designate a certain bag to carry meat or anything else you consider a contaminate and make sure it gets washed after every use? If you are using your own reuable bags, cant you be responsible for what goes in them and keeping them clean? Chris K www.ityse.com

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2009, 3:49:04 PM PDT
Jon says:
I am not concerned about my own responsibility. I am concerned about the number of irresponsible people and otherwise unaware people bringing contaminated items into the store. If there are 'forced' polices or 'no-plastic bag laws' there will be a lot of irresponsible and irate people who might in whole add to an increase to overall potential food contamination incidents.

Posted on Jun 16, 2009, 1:15:26 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 16, 2009, 1:17:17 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 12, 2009, 10:33:42 PM PDT
CC says:
The most problem is when bags are not washed. Bags should be washed, however, after I had some canvas bags washed, they shrunk to about half. The non-wovens from the store disintegrated after a few washings. Obviously - both these types of bags ended up in trash! I have owned Clean Conscience bags made from recycled plastic bottles and the fabric is durable and does not shrink after washing. We wash our grocery bags every week or as often as it needs it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 13, 2009, 5:55:15 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Oct 19, 2012, 10:44:38 AM PDT]

Posted on Jul 13, 2009, 5:55:48 AM PDT
WWW.THEBETTERBAG.COM

Posted on Aug 20, 2010, 5:21:15 AM PDT
Jon says:
JON IN L.A. - I Initiated this discussion after an intellectual thought a conversation with a casual acquaintance - with no motive but genuine concern for public health.

AUGUST 2010 - I happen to have noticed local stories about cross contamination issues that are beginning to appear. I am not trying to say "I told you so" ... as I was not certain and opened this discussion to bring the issue to light.

There was a lot of misguided and even hostile responses to what was meant as a 'Community Dialogue' over an issue that would have very little affect on me personally, but could be of significant health concern to many people.

For those who's dismissive and/or hostile reaction to what was believed an absurd notion and some crazy person with a crazy idea.

Well, there appears to be a growing number of incidents prompting an increasing number of news stories on the topic.

see: http://www.latimes.com/sns-green-bacteria-in-shopping-bags,0,2965516.story

see: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2010/06/25/everybody-panic-reusable-shopping-bags-harbor-bacteria/

see: http://www.ecosalon.com/your-reusable-grocery-bags-may-be-packed-with-bacteria/

see: http://www.llu.edu/public-health/news/news-grocery-bags-bacteria.page

I have NOT been following this issue in the news, but happened to hear a story and just did a simple search to find many sources (from retail promotions, Los Angeles Times Article, and School of Public Health a .edu)

I think and would hope the topic would remain relevant but focus on ways to not only keep one's own bag/person/family healthy, but how to help others become aware of the potential problem and how to communicate that message so that it isn't a neighbor of 'yours' (whomever is reading this).

We all have a responsibility to care for the health and well being of everyone in our own communities - regardless id we know them personally or not.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2010, 5:45:48 AM PDT
K. Parks says:
Jon, you are not incorrect in your thoughts. Granted, I am a bit germ phobic, but you can't convince me that it's a good idea to carry poultry in your bag one day and then salad greens the next without sterilizing it somehow. That's how I ended up inventing the Ecoroot mesh bag (www.ecoroot.com), that is tough enough to even be sanitized in the dishwasher or washer/dryer. No matter what bag you use, and I encourage reusable bags, make sure you know how to properly clean it when need be.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2010, 5:51:45 AM PDT
Our Better Reusable Bag is hand washable. Someone concerned about contamination could wash or sponge it out with a mild bleach or disinfectant solution. Please visit: WWW.THEBETTERBAG.COM

Posted on Aug 28, 2010, 9:51:00 PM PDT
Bo88y says:
I got cheap tote bags-- huge ones with long handles. These make shoulder-carrying easier-- I walk to the grocery store 1/2 mile away, and carried home 50lbs of groceries in pretty fair comfort, because the weight was on my shoulders,not pulling my arms out of the sockets and banging against my knees all the way home. Bottom gussets make them easier to pack.
Throw 'em in the washer & dryer. Use whichever kind of bleach you can. If cotton-canvas ones shrink, get bigger ones, or else synthetic ones. Big, cheap totebags aren't that hard to find. Most people already have some on hand, in a closet somewhere. Use smaller ones to isolate meat, bread/delicate produce, heavy canned/bottled stuff, maybe a special-color one for the meat. No need to over-complicate this. Just throw the damned things in the wash occasionally.

Posted on Sep 3, 2010, 7:17:06 AM PDT
John in LA, I just happened upon this discussion you started in 2008 and am surprised at the lack of responses in two years. I appreciate your post, the reasoning behind it and the links to the articles. I have a weak immune system and have to be incredibly careful with all this stuff. It is really difficult to get people to understand the danger in contamination. The reusable bags we use, the shopping carts themselves, the conveyor belts, to the cashiers. I have seen produce managers picking their noses and handling peaches or broccoli. I have seen people sneeze into their open hand and then touch produce or merchandise. It just makes me sick. Last week I was in a Whole Foods and saw a lady with very long nails DIG INTO a fresh tray of steaming vegetables to sample for herself. I asked her if she knew that she was contaminating the vegetables and this action had the potential to make people ill. She said "yes" and walked away. I told an employee of WF and he immediately announced quite loudly (enough for the offender to hear) that it was "gross" and took the entire vat of vegetables and tossed them in the garbage. I was quite impressed. But this seems to be out of the ordinary. I see so many sandwich making people go from handling money to touching food, to touching garbage. It seems that these people forget that the latex gloves are meant to keep the public from getting sick - but instead they just treat them as if they are to cover the employees hands. That's why I always ask the "sandwich maker" to trade for a fresh pair of gloves. Also, I ALWAYS sanitize the shopping cart handle and will lay my reusable totes down for my purse to lay on top. Imagine how many ladies put their purses in the carts, which in turn will transfer potential bacteria to their homes? Also, I never, EVER buy anything that is shelved up front. I always pick the second product back, whether it's a canned good or a dairy item. In my germ-phobic opinion, they have less potential of being touched by people and also I have seen people change their mind, or forget a product in carts, often times perishable and they will get re-shelved up front some time later.
I am appalled at the filth on the cashier conveyor belts and imagine how often a cash register will get cleaned?? probably never and the cashiers are contaminating their fingers right off the bat and then touching your items. I grew up in an OCD household where we WASHED our canned goods and cleaned everything right out of the shopping bag. After reading your post/articles, I am now going to LABEL my bags for poultry or vegetables, etc. (currently I just go by memory and use one plastic bag for meat products) so I can lower my risk of CROSS-contamination further. My biggest problem is policing my husband. Sometimes he'll buy produce and not use ANY bag and I have to firmly educate him FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME why putting a naked product, such as a tomato in a shopping cart, where it then goes on a filthy conveyor belt, to the Checkers' then Baggers' contaminated hands could potentially be harmful. Especially when he doesn't examine the tomato and I will find a tiny break in the skin. He refused to believe this tiny break could make me very, very sick through the process I have just described. Last thing, I always carry tiny bottles of alcohol based hand sanitizer and always use it after 'offensive' handling while on the road. It's good to clean the shopping cart handle with. I also carry a spray bottle of alcohol and will use that to spritz surfaces that could be harmful. Perhaps I sound like I'm over the top, but I would rather be careful and healthy then be careless. After all, my actions really don't harm anyone, so even though I get ridiculed allot or "looks" from people, it is for my OWN good AND I am not spreading potential problems.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2012, 11:30:01 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 9, 2012, 11:30:31 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2012, 11:33:22 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 9, 2012, 11:33:39 AM PST]

Posted on Jan 10, 2012, 12:44:03 PM PST
Carolyn G. Goodrich says:

I take issue that your "biggest problem is policing [your] husband."

Oh really? why? My husband's actions have put me in the hospital because he's been careless about food ingredients I am allergic to and then with contaminated food. I've been sick many times because of his actions, at home and while traveling.

I find it funny and rather sad that with everything I said you find it offensive that I "police" my husband. Obviously a figure of speech, but really now, it's odd that you honed in on that one sentence.
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