Eco-friendly bags might not be so friendly to your health

Friday, June 28, 2013 - 4:27pm

The trend nationwide is to be more "eco-friendly" and many people are doing so by using reusable grocery bags. But this "green" alternative to plastic might be making you sick.

“I use my bags almost every time I go to the grocery store,” said reusable bag owner, Carla Snell-Hatfield.

These bags are also another way to help Carla "go green" and protect the environment, but they might not be protecting her or you at all.

"Those bags can accumulate bacteria, some of them are harmful," noted Dr. Waref Azmeh. Dr. Azmeh is an infectious disease specialist and he’s seen it all. He says bacteria can and almost always will show up after a culture test.

Carla says she never imaged there would be so much bacteria in her bags.

“I can image that there is some germs, especially because I am using a bag I took to Mardi Gras,” noted Snell-Hatfield.

"The way we can test for it, we can take a swab and rub it against the inside of the bag then close it and send it to a lab to be identified," stated Dr. Azmeh.

Some of the bad bacteria are salmonella and e-coli, which often originate from raw meat.

"What you can do to make sure the bacteria gets or spreads on any of your other food you can place your meat in a plastic bag then place it in one of your eco friendly bags.

These bags, whether they are cloth, plastic or straw can all contract bacteria.

"This cloth tissue bag is better for growth of certain bacteria and it grows faster, also the temperature where you leave them," said Dr. Azmeh.

In Louisiana, leaving them in the trunk of your car might not be the best idea.

"The way to prevent it is to wash them."

Tips from the CDC include scrubbing the plastic bag with soap and hot water and washing the cloth bags in the washer to make sure no bacteria is left from your shopping trip. The ones who need to be extra careful are those with weaker immune systems such as the elderly and infants.

But experts say not to worry.

“Most bacteria you will culture from the bag aren't to harmful," said Dr. Azmeh.

Now Carla is taking the proper precautions to make sure she stays safe, and healthy while "going green."

“I think I might use alcohol wipe or something and wipe them out."

If you do develop a sickness from e-coli or salmonella the symptoms can be nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and frequent trips to the bathroom. It’s recommended to see your physician if any of these symptoms occur.

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