I am asking 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. 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.
I am Registered Nurse Practitioner by training and I feel 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.
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.” (An example of a brief public information video can be accessed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0rFn9mzPJg
Although I opposed the banning of plastic bags and would have preferred an aggressive recycling program, I believe that if the City wants to continue to make this environment effort successful, it is important that, through our own Public Health Department, we add this educational component to keep our residents safe.
This is not a scare tactic but good common sense.