By David Abraham
This month, researchers at the University of Arizona released a study (PDF) showing that reusable grocery bags might be contaminated with E. Coli and other harmful bacteria. They conclude that bags must be washed frequently to avoid cross contamination with other items. Sounds like a problem.
I admit that I don’t use reusable bags every time I shop (hey, I’ve got to clean the cat’s litter box somehow). But I try my best and am very skeptical of this study – not to mention its timing – with a plastic bag ban on the verge of being passed in California.
Whether it’s an exaggeration or not, the press is eating it up with a recent google search yielding dozens of articles trumpeting the study. It’s just the sort of thing that could drive people into a gemophobic frenzy. NPR points out that even if e.coli were to be found in reusable bags (after all, 97% of folks never wash them) it is very unlikely to be found in sufficient quantities to make people sick.
Also worth noting, however, is that many reusable bags are also made by the same plastic manufacturers who are represented by the American Chemistry Council.
David Abraham is an MBA candidate at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. He is a founder of the Emerging Markets Association at Smith which seeks to build a greater understanding of free-market opportunities in frontier markets.