Reusable Grocery Bags Pose E. coli Risk

Plastic grocery bags are everywhere and more and more people are using the convenient commodity in an effort to be greener and recycle and reuse; however, The Washington Post has issued a reminder to wash the bags after they’ve been emptied if you plan on using them again.

A study at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found that just about every bag tested came back with large amounts of dangerous pathogens such as<""> coliform and E. coli, said The Washington Post. Raw meat or uncooked food contaminants—pointing to coliform bacteria—were in about half of the bags while E. coli was found in about 12 percent of the bags tested, wrote The Washington Post.

The study explained that by simply putting the bags through the washer or even cleaning them by hand, cut the bacteria levels down to nothing, wrote The Washington Post. But, just about all the shoppers who were questioned for the study generally did not normally—if-ever—wash these reusable bags, while about one-third said that they did use their bags later for nonfood items.

The American Chemistry Council funded the study, wrote The Washington Post, noting that the study took place while a debate continues over a bill in California to ban single-use bags. The Council, said The Washington Post, is opposed to the bill.

Meanwhile, coliform is a pointer to potential fecal contamination and applies to a broad array of bacteria found in the environment—for instance mammal feces, soil, vegetation, and water—and can be used to determine if other fecal pathogens, such as E. coli, are in the test environment. Such pathogens indicate the potential presence of dangerous, sometimes deadly and disease-causing contaminants.

We frequently report on E. coli and have discussed that this is a bacterium—a fecal coliform—found in the intestines of mammals: Warm-blooded animals, including humans. E. coli present in a water system can point to recent sewage or animal waste contamination.

While some E. coli strains are necessary for digestion and harmless, some are harmful, deadly, toxin producing, and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs, also known as Shiga-producing E. coli. Of particular concern is the virulent, sometimes deadly E. coli O157:H7 strain that is part of this group and generally found to be the culprit in E. coli-related foodborne illness outbreak.

E. coli O157:H7 can cause stomach cramps; watery diarrhea that may turn bloody in one to three days; dehydration; and, in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors, and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

We have also long been reporting on distressing reports of cases of drug resistant E. coli being recounted world-wide that are similar in path to a mutated staph called MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus that, when not treated early, is resistant to all but the one antibiotic of last resort.

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