Dirty Bags: What Are You Bringing Home?

Environmental concerns are prompting cities across the country to do away with plastic shopping bags. In their place, grocery shoppers are turning to reusable bags. And while those bags are better for Mother Earth; we found out they may not be so good for your health.

Our grocery bag investigation begins at the Better Health Store near Frandor. We scanned the aisles for re-usable grocery bags being stuffed with all sorts of foods, and some bags were more clean than others. We collected five in all, in various sizes and fabrics.

We then took them to the Michigan State University Food Sciences Department where the microbiology lab of Dr. Elliot Ryser is located; and with the help of his grad students, we got to work analyzing them.

After six days the results were in...

So are there any harmful things in these bags we tested? According to Dr. Ryser, "Yes, there are bacteria present on the bag's surface that we sampled."

Three of the five bags tested came back pretty clean, but that wasn't the case for the other two. "Two bags are here that have an appreciable numbers of bacteria." Bacteria that showed up very clearly, at potentially harmful levels. Besides bacteria, the testing also turned up evidence of mold, but no listeria or salmonella.

Dr. Ryser says he's not surprised by the results. It's a dirty reminder to wash reusable bags often, especially those you take to the grocery store.