A new Alameda County law goes into effect January 1, 2013, that prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags by retail outlets; stores that provide paper bags must charge a minimum of 10 cents per bag.
The goal is to dissuade use of single-use plastic bags.
On Saturday, December 1st, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., the City of Alameda will provide, free of charge, a reusable grocery bag in exchange for a pile of single-use plastic bags.
However, a joint University of Arizona and Loma Linda University study released in 2010 found that reusable grocery bags can be a breeding ground for food-borne bacteria and pose a health risk. The report noted that awareness of the risk was low.
According to the report, “a sudden or significant increase in use of reusable bags without a major public education campaign on how to reduce cross contamination would create the risk of significant adverse public health impact.”
“Our findings suggest a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half of the bags sampled,” said Charles Gerba, a UA professor of soil, water and environmental science and co-author of the study.
Mr. Gerba said that reusable bags need to be sanitized every week.
The study sampled 84 real-world consumer reusable bags, including 25 in San Francisco.