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Re-usable grocery bags: A-ok!
June 28, 2011 11:38 AM   Subscribe

A new study finds that re-usable grocery bags don't harbor sickening bacteria as much as previously found. Turns out, the previous study (June, 2010), which reported significant levels of sickness producing bacteria present in the bags they tested, was sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, an organization that represents the interests of the people who manufacture plastic bags. “A person eating an average bag of salad greens gets more exposure to these bacteria than if they had licked the insides of the dirtiest bag from this study,” says an expert.
posted by crunchland (67 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm shocked, shocked.
posted by kmz at 11:40 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Who out there is licking the inside of grocery bags?
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:41 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh.. I hadn't heard about that study, and was wondering why the quick proliferation of reusable bags suddenly nearly disappeared over that last year...

should have known
posted by edgeways at 11:41 AM on June 28, 2011


Don't judge me!
posted by oddman at 11:41 AM on June 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


A new study finds that re-usable grocery bags don't harbor sickening bacteria as much as previously found.

....Wait, this really was a thing?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately, this study was sponsored by the People Who Apparently Want To Gross Me Out Right Before My Salad for Lunch Council (PWAWTGMORBMSfLC)
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:42 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Who out there is licking the inside of grocery bags?

My cat, for hours on end, every day. Like it's made out of tuna flavored ice cream. Maybe they should do a study on that.
posted by theodolite at 11:43 AM on June 28, 2011 [20 favorites]


To be on the safe side, I Always put groceries in plastic and then the plastic inside the resuable bags.
posted by Postroad at 11:48 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Of course, they have yet to disprove the link between re-usable grocery bags and autism.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 11:50 AM on June 28, 2011 [20 favorites]


My takeaway from this is that reusable grocery bags make great salad shakers. Toss in some bagged salad and dressing and shake it up -- you get a salad that apparently will be cleaner than before it went into the bag!
posted by Pants McCracky at 11:50 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Isn't stuff you get at grocery stores wrapped inside plastic or itself (onions, bananas, etc) anyway?
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:51 AM on June 28, 2011


I distinctly remember sitting next to a researcher at a high school awards dinner a couple decades ago who was involved in a similar 'study'. In his case he was absolutely shocked that anyone would consider eating any type of restaurant food off a surface like butcher paper instead of the clearly healthier Styrofoam standard at the time. The thing with this sort of investigation is that it can become so self-referential and myopic that it misses the big picture. He kept telling me about how the bacteria counts were thousands of times higher on waxed papers than on plastic containers. What he left out (and I think honestly didn't know) was the other costs of disposable plastics and the fact that both numbers were so low as to not be any sort of health concern. He just created specimens of paper or foam by wiping food on them, let them sit around a bit and then did microbe counts.

tldr; Life is hazardous, but not as dangerous as most studies make you think.
posted by meinvt at 11:51 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is insanity. Have these people seen how farmers transport "groceries"? Have you seen where they dig them out of? You know... the place where animals crap.

I use some really rough weave hessian type jute bags. They're ace and I've never cleaned them nor had any desire to do so. Fruit and veg roll around in them like dastardly bacterial time bombs, and yet I live.

Top tip - don't worry about your bag being clean. You simply accept that groceries aren't a clean medium and either cook whatever you're about to eat or give it a cursory wash first.
posted by samworm at 11:52 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


To be on the safe side, I Always put groceries in plastic and then the plastic inside the resuable bags.

Because those plastic bags are sanitized for your convenience.

Less snarkily, has anyone tested those plastic bags you get at the store for bacteria or other contaminants?
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:53 AM on June 28, 2011


Isn't stuff you get at grocery stores wrapped inside plastic or itself (onions, bananas, etc) anyway?

Not if you're getting produce at a farmer's or fruit market.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:54 AM on June 28, 2011


One interesting feature of cloth bags is that you can wash them.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:54 AM on June 28, 2011 [18 favorites]


Maybe just wash the apple before you eat it?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:54 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


...wondering why the quick proliferation of reusable bags suddenly nearly disappeared over that last year...

I had not heard of this study either. I also didn't notice them disappearing, but now that you mention I haven't seem them EVERYWHERE like I did for a while. I hope I'm just more used to seeing them now and they haven't really gone down in popularity at all. Because I love those bags.
posted by DU at 11:56 AM on June 28, 2011


A lot of those reusable bags are made by the same companies who make the disposable bags (except the reusable ones are shipped from China and the disposable ones made in North America, because the disposable ones have few personnel costs and need faster turnaround times). The reusable bags are great, because the markup on them is a lot higher -- and now if you get a disposable bag, which costs less than .05 cents for the stores to buy, the stores get pure profit on them, too.

Maybe some individual consumers are doing it to help the environment, but that's not why stores switched over.
posted by jeather at 11:57 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The reusable bags I've gotten from Aldi are comically large.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:57 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be on the safe side, I always put groceries in plastic and then the plastic inside the resuable bags.

I go on to coat the reusable bags in concrete, encase the entire thing in lead, and then drop them into the ocean in international waters.

It's kind of hellish getting to the bananas afterward, but it's worth it for food safety.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:58 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Of course, it's surely the most safe if you only eat pre-cooked and -packaged meals. I am sure they have no bacteria at all.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:59 AM on June 28, 2011


Life is hazardous, but not as dangerous as most studies makefrom the things the media has led you to you think.

The things that will kill you are the things you ignore. The stupid stuff you do at home, in your car, etc., is what will kill or maim you, not cell phones or pesticides or phthalates or mercury or even food contamination. The impact of those things on your health are vanishingly small, so small it's difficult to study their effect.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:59 AM on June 28, 2011


I go on to coat the reusable bags in concrete, encase the entire thing in lead, and then drop them into the ocean in international waters...

posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:58 AM on June 28 [+] [!]


Eponysterical.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:01 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be on the safe side, I Always put groceries in plastic and then the plastic inside the resuable bags.

The Anal Retentive Chef approves of this comment.
posted by Pants McCracky at 12:01 PM on June 28, 2011


"The thorough licking" is my favouritest scientific method.
posted by Theta States at 12:02 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The things that will kill you are the things you ignore.

My shower. It's after me. I try to ignore it. I wish I could, but I know it is lurking, waiting patiently for the time to kill me.
posted by likeso at 12:05 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


He kept telling me about how the bacteria counts were thousands of times higher on waxed papers than on plastic containers. What he left out (and I think honestly didn't know) was the other costs of disposable plastics and the fact that both numbers were so low as to not be any sort of health concern.

Wow. I only thought they pulled that trick with radiation counts.
posted by eriko at 12:05 PM on June 28, 2011


Not one sexual innuendo about licking the dirtiest bag? In this whole thread?
posted by stinkycheese at 12:09 PM on June 28, 2011


Don't look now, but your shower may actually be up to something.
posted by HLD at 12:10 PM on June 28, 2011


and now if you get a disposable bag, which costs less than .05 cents for the stores to buy, the stores get pure profit on them, too.

fwiw the regular grocery (and the coop) store where I shop deducts 5cents per reusable bag per time when you bring it in. The hardware store also randomly dives you 10% off if you use their reusable bags.

And, the bags I bought where literally a buck each, use it 20 times and it is paid for.
posted by edgeways at 12:11 PM on June 28, 2011


Oh good, I don't have to be scared of that thing I didn't know I was supposed to be scared of.
posted by Eideteker at 12:15 PM on June 28, 2011


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but everything, everywhere is absolutely teeming with bacteria.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:15 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


THEY HARBOUR BACTERIA!!!1! YOU WILL DIE OF MILD FOOD POISONING!!!1!!!1

Uh, so maybe I'll wash the bags now and then, and maybe whatever foodstuffs might accidentally come into direct contact with them.

Seriously, even if it really was a thing, it wasn't.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:19 PM on June 28, 2011


The Anal Retentive Chef approves of this comment.

video, skip to 1:20
posted by benito.strauss at 12:21 PM on June 28, 2011


I go on to coat the reusable bags in concrete, encase the entire thing in lead, and then drop them into the ocean in international waters...

A lot of the reusable grocery bags sold at chain supermarkets already contain lead, evidently, so no need to duplicate efforts! Supposedly it's "in a form that is not easily extracted or leached" unless the "bags wear down and paint [flakes] off and threads [fray], releasing the lead."

So, if you're not into lead, best to use bags that are made only of canvas or some other cloth.
posted by maud at 12:22 PM on June 28, 2011


Maybe my risk gauge is oddly calibrated or something, but I have to admit I've never given a moment's thought to the possibility of contamination from my shopping bags, plastic cloth or otherwise. Whereas the fact of carcinogenic BPA lining every can of soup I buy - that gives me a bit of pause.
posted by gompa at 12:31 PM on June 28, 2011


Pristine disposable plastic bags are fine and all, but they don't stay that way once you put items in them that you or your cashier have touched with your gross, cash-handling, PIN-entering fingers of icky doom.

Seriously though, eat a germ. It's good for you!
posted by pajamazon at 12:41 PM on June 28, 2011


Don't look now, but your shower may actually be up to something.

Thank you, HLD. I *knew* it was leering at me. Now, about the toaster...
posted by likeso at 12:41 PM on June 28, 2011


It's amazing how often reusable grocery bags have been identified as the culprits in death from food contamination! It's endlessly on my news, unlike food scares from other causes!
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:48 PM on June 28, 2011


Who out there is licking the inside of grocery bags?

I'm sure Harmony Korine is already working on the treatment.
posted by mykescipark at 12:49 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


the fact of carcinogenic BPA lining every can of soup I buy --- For what it's worth, it's not supposed to be a carcinogen. The accusation is that it's an endocrine disruptor, and that the effects are most profound in children.
posted by crunchland at 1:10 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I use grocery bags as trash bags, so there is no chance of my switching to reusable bags unless they implement a per-bag fee for disposables. (Which I totally think they should, even though it will cost me money because I will have to start buying trash bags.) But how do they think people have been carrying food for tens of thousands of years? Bags and baskets made out of natural fibers didn't kill off entire civilizations, for example.
posted by Forktine at 1:17 PM on June 28, 2011


The accusation is that it's an endocrine disruptor, and that the effects are most profound in children.

Don't worry, the same American Chemistry Council managed to nix the BPA ban in a recent food safety bill: American Chemistry Council lobbies to keep BPA in baby bottles.

I'm thinking we should gather up all these plastic bags and smother the ACC leadership in them*.

*smother with love of course.
posted by formless at 1:18 PM on June 28, 2011


You guys know that American Beauty was a long-form ad for the American Chemistry Council, right?
posted by joe lisboa at 1:20 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


You guys know that American Beauty was a long-form ad for the American Chemistry Council, right?

Huh. I'd always just assumed it was the Federal Florists Federation promoting their new line of rose petal bed confetti.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:31 PM on June 28, 2011


Metafilter: more exposure to these bacteria than if they had licked the insides of the dirtiest bag
posted by antifuse at 1:37 PM on June 28, 2011


I feel compelled to admit that I alternately use the same cloth bags for groceries and carting dirty laundry back and forth from my girlfriend's house.

Anyone wanna come over for dinner?
posted by freecellwizard at 1:40 PM on June 28, 2011


Also, that out of the way, this:

I use grocery bags as trash bags, so there is no chance of my switching to reusable bags unless they implement a per-bag fee for disposables.

They introduced a 5 cent per bag fee for disposables here, and it hasn't really affected my grocery bag habits. That's an extra, what, 50 cents on a decent sized grocery run?

Apparently it made a HUGE difference in Ireland when they did it (and when I lived there, we did in fact use reusable bags more often), and I heard somewhere that it's become a huge profit centre for the big grocery store chains here, but I'm far too lazy to look up if that's actually true or not.
posted by antifuse at 1:41 PM on June 28, 2011


We use plastic grocery bags for trash bags but we don't go through nearly as much trash as groceries. I'm not sure how that's even possible. So mostly we use canvas bags.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:46 PM on June 28, 2011


We use plastic grocery bags for trash bags

I wish we could still do this. Instead, a few years ago our fair city decided they were going to make us all recycle by telling us our trash would only be picked up if it were in special blue bags which cost either $1 or $1.50 (depending on size) each.

Goddamn I hate those fucking blue bags. $2 a week, on average, to get rid of our non-compostable, non-recyclable trash, when I used to pay pennies a week to throw away the exact same things.
posted by anastasiav at 1:51 PM on June 28, 2011


So I can stop putting condoms on my bananas and zucchini now? Cool. The stares were starting to annoy me.
posted by Splunge at 2:40 PM on June 28, 2011


Maybe it's stress and sleep deprivation, but this is the most perfect thing I've seen all day:

Not one sexual innuendo about licking the dirtiest bag? In this whole thread?

posted by stinkycheese at 12:09 PM on June 28 [+] [!]


Eponi-califragilisticexpialidocious.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:48 PM on June 28, 2011


One time at the grocery store there was a woman who had brought a box of plastic bags with her, and every item she took off the shelf, she did it the way you scoop dog poop--with the bag inside-out over your hand, and then you turn it right-side out around the thing. So she never touched any of the groceries, and everything in her cart was inside one of these clear plastic bags. I was very curious about how she handled them once she got home--how was she able to eat the food? What was her process for de-bagging it and getting the food out of the boxes? I'm still curious.
posted by not that girl at 3:32 PM on June 28, 2011


Evolution of our no-germs-left-behind obsession:

1. To get rid of germs, wash your hands with water.

2. Well, just water is not enough. Wash your hands with this bar of regular soap.

3. In fact, you should wash your hands with this special anti-bacterial soap made specifically for removing germs from hands.

4. Scratch that. There might be bacteria on that bar of anti-bacterial soap because it just lies there in leftover soap foam and some residual stuff from your hands. Here, use this anti-bacterial liquid soap and dispenser instead. This doesn't leave any mess behind for bacterial to grow.

5. Listen up, this is important. The press-down thingamajig on that dispenser could harbor bacteria because everyone presses down on it to get the soap. Here, use this hands-free infrared-sensor liquid soap dispenser.

Really, where do we go from here?
posted by vidur at 4:50 PM on June 28, 2011


vidur, I'm voting for a stainless steel bathroom, rounded edges everywhere. After each use, rinses of a dilute solution of bleach, pressurized steam, then hydrogen peroxide. Hard UVC emitters descend from the ceiling and blast everything. Finally, a Tesla coil pushes out of the floor and crackles high voltage about like something from The Entity.
posted by adipocere at 6:00 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Forktine - "I use grocery bags as trash bags, so there is no chance of my switching"

It doesn't have to be all or nothing; when I remember to or if I'm going to the store from home, I'll bring a reusable bag with me. When I go to the store on the way from home, I'll take their disposable plastic bags and forgo the $0.03 discount.

Clear plastic grocery bags (much more likely to be fluid-tight), otoh, is a reason I buy more produce and fruits than I'd otherwise; they make awesome "wet trash" daily-throw trash containers.
posted by porpoise at 6:40 PM on June 28, 2011


Eat a germ today. It'll do a body good.

Crap, there are corporate growth hormones, antibiotics, BPA, meat glues, yadda yadda, and we worry about a few germs mother nature grows? Remember back in the day when no one had a fridge? Oh, yeah, they all died.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:43 PM on June 28, 2011


vidur, I'm voting for a stainless steel bathroom, rounded edges everywhere. After each use, rinses of a dilute solution of bleach, pressurized steam, then hydrogen peroxide. Hard UVC emitters descend from the ceiling and blast everything. Finally, a Tesla coil pushes out of the floor and crackles high voltage about like something from The Entity

You forgot to include a cleaning mechanism for the tesla coil. Them bacteria love a good tesla coil.
posted by vidur at 6:55 PM on June 28, 2011


Really, where do we go from here?

I've developed a regimen wherein I forego surface cleaning entirely, in favor of directly imbibing a disinfecting agent. Jameson is only 40% ethyl alcohol, compared to Purell's 65% isopropyl alcohol, but it still seems to be doing me wonders.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:24 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's genetically engineer a kind of benign fungus that simply out-competes everything else. You wouldn't have to worry about cleaning, because your living wallpaper and carpet would eat all the dirt you produce. More expensive strains could come in pleasant colors and fragrances, or even glow in the dark.
posted by Pyry at 8:28 PM on June 28, 2011


Let's genetically engineer a kind of benign fungus that simply out-competes everything else.

Sure, but they only start benign.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:17 PM on June 28, 2011


THE BACTERIA IS INSIDE THE HOUSE!!
posted by deborah at 11:10 PM on June 28, 2011


Really, where do we go from here?

Public washrooms equipped with lasers that just disintegrate your hands after using the toilet.
posted by Theta States at 6:35 AM on June 29, 2011


Apparently American Chemistry Council is taking a new approach this summer, claiming that the municipalities that are trying to cut the use of plastic bags are going to ruin the economy. They even have a website that says so, so it must be true.
posted by crunchland at 9:02 AM on June 29, 2011


Let's genetically engineer...

We already evolved with commensal bacteria that helps outcompete/kill some bacteria that would be harmful to us. I think Bruce Sterling incorporates the idea of genetically modified commensal bacteria as personal hygiene product is featured in a number of his stories.
posted by porpoise at 7:37 PM on June 29, 2011


I like the reusable canvas bags and all, but lately I've gotten into knitting mesh bags out of cotton. Easy to wash, and you don't have to worry about folding the dratted thing up. (Some of the canvas bags have little snaps and fold up neatly, and some of them are a royal PITA from a storage standpoint.)

I found some awesome multicolored cotton yarn a few weeks ago. I can't wait to see what kind of unicorn barf it looks like when I'm through.
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 12:34 AM on June 30, 2011


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