Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Saving the Environment Makes You Sick

Well, no: not exactly.

"Reusable Grocery Bags Breed Bacteria"
Theresa Marchetta, KMGH Denver (September 27, 2010)

"They are good for the environment, but reusable grocery bags are also a breeding ground for bacteria.

"Many responsible shoppers carefully choose their groceries and put them into the same cloth or plastic bags over and over again on every trip to the store.

" 'Did you ever wash your grocery bags?' asked Call7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta.

" 'Um, no! I never wash my plastic bags or my paper bags,' responded a 7NEWS colleague.

"Marchetta could not find anyone who regularly cleaned their reusable bags.

" 'Do you ever think to wash the bags?' Marchetta asked another colleague.

" 'No. Not really,' the other worker replied, laughing.

"The CALL7 Investigators tested several reusable bags used by 7NEWS colleagues and another from a woman going into a Denver grocery store.

"Marchetta brought the lab results to Dr. Michelle Barron, the infectious disease expert at the University of Colorado Hospital.

" 'Wow. Wow. That is pretty impressive,' said Barron....

"...Three of the samples had relatively low bacteria counts, posing little risk of causing illness.

"Two were in the moderate range, posing some risk, according to Barron.

"Two other bags had extremely high counts -- 330,000 to nearly 1 million colonies of bacteria.

"Four of the samples also had relatively high levels of yeast and mold...."

Hats off to the reporter - and the editor who let this one get through. Pointing out a problem is one thing: showing how to deal with it is, in the Lemming's opinion, better.

"...Fortunately, it is a problem that is easy to fix.

"Wash reusable bags or wipe them out with a bleach wipe after each use....

"...Another suggestion -- designate one bag for each type of food to prevent germs from spreading."

The Lemming remembers when one-use shopping bags were a relatively new feature in groceries - and regarded as another example of how young whippersnappers had no appreciation for the value of money, threw away perfectly good material, and all that.

There's something to that: the 'disposable' approach to packaging and goods leads to quite a lot going into landfills. "Recycling" sounds new, but it's the way the Lemming's parents lived.

Back to the shopping bags of doom: The article briefly discusses why it's not a good idea to grow bacteria in your shopping bag; and gives some common-sense advice for how to not get sick and not throw away perfectly good containers on each shopping trip.

The Lemming's household shops at stores that recycle their own bags: so we've got a bag for each store, fill them with matching bags, and carry them back when they're full. On the whole, it's easier for us: and takes up a little less space than reusable bags would.

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