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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  • NRA Life Member

    Yeah, I’m sure no one would have a problem “washing” a shopping cart load of groceries after you take them out of your reusable bags.

    What the hell was wrong with brown paper grocery bags that every store in the country used for many decades? They were cheap, reusable, adequate for the job and are recycleable if desired.

  • Wellescent Health

    I have to ask just how much food comes directly into contact with the recyclable bags in the first place. Most food is packaged and even our vegetables usually come in the thin plastic bags. There is little logic behind the attempts to dissuade use of recyclable bags.

  • Wouldnt Be Suprised

    I would not be so quick to discount their points. I Binged “reusable bags”; “lead” and “recall” and there are many stores recalling their reusable bags for lead. Lulu Lemon (Canada); CVS (National); Wegmans (NY); Publix (FL); Winn-Dixie (FL); and others. This seems to be a national and not a California issue. Why is KCBS just now covering? How widespread is this? Apparently these recalls started back in the summer so I doubt related to San Jose’s new bag law. Also why arent we being told which bag failed the test? Shouldnt the bags at least have a Prop 65 warning? Even my garden hose has one on it.


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