Are Reusable Bags Safe? Schipske Wants More Information on Educating Consumers

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Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske

Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske is asking for a report from the City Public Health Officer concerning educational efforts by the Health Department to inform grocers and their customers about the need to clean reusable bags that may be the source of bacteria. An agenda item asking for the report will be heard in early March.

“The City enacted an ordinance banning plastic bags at stores as a way of encouraging the use of reusable bags,” says Schipske who is a Registered Nurse Practitioner. “Recent studies indicate that the reusable bags may be the source of E.Coli and other bacteria which cause serious illness and infection, if the bags are not washed and disinfected between uses. Additionally, after carrying meat, poultry and other items, customers apparently are often returning their bags to the trunks of their cars where increased temperatures can speed the growth of bacteria from these fluids. Some customers use their bags to also carry clothing and shoes which adds to the transmission of bacteria.”

Schipske feels that as with any public health matter, “it is critical that we inform, educate and empower residents about health issues in our community. It is important that our Public Health Department provide information through the stores about the need for proper cleaning and disinfecting of reusable bags in between uses.”

Schipske notes that the Loma Linda University School of Public Health (after finding 12% of the reusable bags they sampled at grocery stores positive for Escherichia coli) recommended that the “public needs to be educated about the proper care of reusable bags by printed instructions on the bags or through public service announcements.” The Canadian government provides public information on this issue as seen in this brief video:

Although she opposed the banning of plastic bags and would have preferred an aggressive recycling program, Councilwoman Schipske believes that if the City wants to continue to make this environmental effort successful, “it is important that, through our own Public Health Department, we add this educational component to keep our residents safe.”


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