Reusable grocery bags can be dangerous

February 09, 2011

While Maryland state lawmakers consider instituting a five-cent fee on plastic bags, you should consider this: Those polypropylene bags that will replace them are likely to bring dangerous bacteria like E. coli in contact with your food. ("The (occasional) virtues of nickel-and-diming," Feb. 8).

According to a recent survey from Opinion Research Corporation, more than half of the people who do their grocery shopping with reusable bags have never washed them. This is despite the fact that a recent study from the University of Arizona found that more than half of the bags they tested came up positive for coliform, while 11 percent tested positive for E. coli.

And there are dangers in these bags that you can't just wash out: Senator Charles Schumer has called on the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Product Safety Commission to look into the fact that excessive levels of lead have been found in these products.

What we're seeing are the unintended consequences of ill thought-out government regulations. Often, when the government rushes to push through feel-good regulations designed to shape public behavior, they usually introduce new problems. In this case, they might introduce new and potentially dangerous problems.

J. Justin Wilson, Washington

The writer is a senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.

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