ConsumerWatch: Reusable Grocery Bags Raise Health Concern

OAKLAND (CBS 5) – A recent advertisement that may have some consumers worried: A reusable grocery bag wrapped in police tape along with a warning that reusable bags can contain lead and harbor bacteria.

The ad is paid by a group called Consumer Freedom.

“We’re trying to educate consumers about an unintended consequence of a poorly thought out policy,” said Justin Wilson, Consumer Freedom Senior Research Analyst.

But environment groups insist there may be something behind this concern.

“It’s a fear tactic employed by our opposition,” said Emily Utter, Save the Bay Policy Associate.

Utter adds it’s not a coincidence that the ads are showing up now after San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles County banned the use of plastic bags.

“Plastic bags are a $250 billion industry here in California, so clearly plastic bag makers are concerned,” said Utter.

The ad also cites a reusable bags study that found bacteria in most of the 84 bags they tested. But the study concludes washing your bag will eliminate virtually all the bacteria. The study, which was paid by the American Chemistry Council, is an organization that represents the plastic bag industry.

ConsumerWatch then tested 10 bags at The Environmental Working Group in Oakland and out of the 10 bags, one came back positive for lead contamination.

“This is a bag we would be concerned about,” said Ryan Nestle with The Environmental Working Group. He added the bag contained high amounts of lead.

But experts still insist there’s no need to panic. They’ve tested a variety of supermarket bags and almost all of them came back lead free. But if consumers are concerned Nestle said consumers should wash any items that go into the bag and rinse hands after use. Environmentalists strongly suspect the same group is also behind the newspaper ads. They also suggest using canvas bags.


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