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When the City of Toronto considered a ban on plastic bags, a cranky Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) commissioned a study by Sporometrics, " the foremost experts in many aspects of fungal and environmental bacterial testing in Canada. "
And guess what they found? Some of them were dirty inside. What a surprise!
Of course, EPIC has no vested interest here, and says that
The position of the plastics industry is clear. The industry strongly supports reduction and reuse, and recognizes use of reusables as good environmental practice, but it does not want to see these initiatives inadvertently compromise public health and safety. The industry believes that appropriate independent research and investigation must be pursued.
The study concluded:
The moist, dark, warm interior of a folded used reusable bag that has acquired a small amount of water and trace food contamination is an ideal incubator for bacteria.
The strong presence of yeasts in some bags indicates the presence of water and microbial growth substrate (food). The yeasts are thus a 'canary in the mine' confirming that microbes are growing in the bag.
There is a potential for cross-contamination of food if the same reusable bags are used on successive trips;
In cases of food poisoning, experts are now going to have to test reusable bags in addition to food products as the possible sources of contamination.
3 bags out of 25 examined had coliform contamination.
"The presence of faecal material in some of the reusable bags is particularly concerning," said Summerbell. "All meat products should be individually wrapped before being placed in a reusable bag to prevent against leakage. This should become a mandated safety standard across the entire grocery industry."
None of this should be a surprise to anyone; if you don't wash your dishes or your counter, they get dirty too. If you fold up a damp plastic bag and leave it after carrying diapers or letting meat drip in it, you are going to get stuff growing. If you read the actual test results in the appendix, it appears that very few bags were in fact seriously contaminated.
So don't let it go for a year without a wipedown, don't carry dirty diapers in it, and try to avoid meat leakage. And don't forget how much crap can be on the supermarket checkout belt; contaminated food can be coming out of the disposable plastic bags too. That's why we wash our vegetables and fruit before we eat it, right?
But I have no doubt that over the next few weeks we will hear a lot about this study. Download it from the press release here
via a tweet from Grist: "Amazing bit of greenwashery by plastics industry: Dirty reusable bags are a public health threat! "