• December 10, 2023

Warning to anyone using reusable shopping bags over ‘killer bugs’


REUSABLE shopping bags could be a threat to you and your family’s heath, experts have warned.

While the so called ‘bags-for-life’ are much better for the environment, the Food Standards Authority (FSA) warns the trusty tote could lead to cross-contamination.

Reusable shopping bags can harbour killer bugs


Reusable shopping bags can harbour killer bugsCredit: Getty

This is because while we lug our food shopping back home foods are likely to spill and uncooked foods like meat and veg can come face to face, which add to the germy effect.

In fact, one 2011 study found that among randomly-collected reusable bags, bacteria were found in almost all of them.

Specifically escherichia coli – or E.coli – was found in 8 per cent of all the bags.

The bug, found in the intestines of humans and animals, can cause food poisoning, serious infection and in some cases, death.

Of course, not every strain of E.coli is going to harm you, and not every bug inside your bag will come into contact with your mouth.

But still, “these results indicate that reusable bags, if not properly washed on a regular basis, can play a role in the cross-contamination of foods,” researchers said.

In these bags, it’s possible for raw food like vegetables to come into contact with some germs, and then not get washed off.

This is why the NHS suggests you always wash your raw food before you eat it.

The Centre for Disease Control goes so far as to suggest people should keep their veggies separate from meat while packing your shopping.

Raw meat can harbour lots of dangerous bacteria, including e.coli.

“When meat juices were added to bags and stored in the trunks of cars for two hours, the number of bacteria increased 10-fold, indicating the potential for bacterial growth in the bags,” the study found.

How to protect your family

Before you chuck out all your bags and give up on being green for good, cleaning experts, from One Stop Cleaning Shop, have some tips on how best to keep your bags hygienic. .

They said: “For bags that are made from cotton, or other materials such as polyester, these can generally be machine washed like how you would normally wash these materials.

“We recommend that you put them on a hot water setting (the hottest the material can stand without shrinking) with a detergent. This way the hot water as well as the detergent will kill any nasty germs lurking in the bag!”

What are the symptoms of infection?

Some E.coli strains produce toxins (Shiga toxins) that can cause severe illness.

One common strain called E.coli 0157 produces such toxins and is usually responsible for the outbreaks that are covered by the news.

Smptoms of this strain are severe stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhoea that may be bloody.

These typically last up to seven days if there are no complications, but some infections can be severe and may be life-threatening.

A particular life-threatening complication called haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) may develop in up to 10 per cent of people infected with a toxin-producing form of E.coli.

This is a severe kidney-related complication that may, in extreme cases, lead to renal failure and the need for renal replacement therapy.


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