A little more than a month ago, a report was issued stating that reusing grocery bags presented the risk of cross-contamination with foodborne pathogens.   Yesterday, folks at Consumer Reports called the conclusions of that study into question.  They have three main points.

First, they question the impartiality of those who funded the study, the American Chemistry Council.  I liked the quote:

The American Chemistry Council is the trade group that advocates on behalf of plastic-bag manufacturers. Now why would the folks who make plastic grocery bags want to cast doubts on the safety of reusable grocery bags? Oh, right.

Second, Consumer Reports points out that the study had a very small sample size – 84 bags.  More importantly, CR makes a key distinction – the bacteria they found were not those associated with significant illness, "The researchers tested for pathogenic bacteria Salmonella and Listeria, but didn’t find any, nor did they find strains of E. coli that could make one sick."   It’s a good point.   While E. coli O157:H7, and its other pathogenic brethren, are subtypes of E. coli, it is NOT at all the case that the presence of generic E. coli is the equivalent to finding these much more dangerous "bugs."

Finally, just as I did on local TV here in Seattle CR does recognize that the issue of cross-contamination in the home IS an important issue.   So, remember:

  • keep cutting boards, knives and other utensils for raw meat separate from those for use with ready to eat items;
  • store raw meat items separately from ready to eat foods;
  • wash your hands frequently, and always after touching raw meat, and before touching ready to eat items.