Blog : Preventing Cross-Contamination on the Seacoast

By John | Jun 1, 2015 | in

Josh Denton is a guest blogger who is very active in environmental causes in Portsmouth, as well as a member of the Green Alliance.

By Josh Denton

With beach season upon us, now is the time for the City Council to enact the single-use, carry-out, plastic bag ordinance to address the actual collective harm done to more than just our scenic coastline by plastic shopping bag litter. The ordinance also addresses the much ballyhooed perceived health harm from reusable bag cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination occurs everywhere from salads to shared toothpaste tubes. A potential health risk occurs when disease causing microorganisms transfer from uncooked meats to other foods that are consumed uncooked. The plastic bag ordinance’s special food safety provision prevents this type of cross-contamination in reusable bags by allowing continued use of plastic meat, fruit, and vegetable bags.

Much of the cross-contamination hype stems from selective reporting, such as the Union Leader’s May 9 article titled ‘Grocery totes a health threat?’ The article cites the 2010 ‘Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags’ study that found 97 percent of tote bag owners, heading into two California and one Arizona grocery stores, did not regularly wash their totes.

Testing of all 84 of their totes found harmless bacteria, but did not find Salmonella, Listeria, or other pathogenic bacterias; nor did it specify if the strain of E. coli found was one of the very few that could actually make one sick. The key finding was that machine or hand washing effectively reduces all tote bacteria to levels below detection.

All shoppers use bags, and the plastic bag ordinance will help educate the public on the actual collective harms of single-use convenience plastics, while allowing for the continued prevention of potentially harmful cross-contamination.

The Green Alliance invites its members to post to this blog as guest bloggers. Not a member? Join the Green Alliance for $25 and attend our Isles of Shoals cruise for free!