printed bags for life
July 10, 2017

Could Using ‘Bags for Life’ Make You Sick?

While we’ve all embraced the ‘Bag for Life’ era, are we using them safely? Do we stop to think about what we used the bag for previously? It could be anything from fresh foods to football gear, and all the while bacteria are lurking in there. It’s this habit of using our reusable bags for multiple purposes which is why your bag for life could make you sick.

A bag for life is of great benefit to the environment but we should be mindful of the ability for bacteria to survive on bags for a long time; sometimes as long as eight weeks. This means that if you carry uncooked meat in a bag one day, then use that bag to carry ready-to-eat foods like bread and cheese there is a potential for cross-contamination.

In 2015 Professor Anthony Hilton, head of biological and biomedical science, and his team at Aston University, conducted an investigation into bacterial contamination of jute reusable bags, bags for life and single-use plastic bags. The team investigated the ability of bacteria to survive on a bag and also how easily bacteria are transferred from the bag to your hands and from your hands to the bag.

The experiments revealed that:-

  • 1 million cells of Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria commonly found on the hands but which can cause illness, survived over 8 weeks and took 16 weeks to disappear completely
  • 1 million E. coli cells, known to cause diarrhoeal infection, survived 48 hours before becoming undetectable – enough time to cause illness
  • 23% of bacteria on plastic bags can be transferred in a single touch on to hands


The message from Professor Hilton’s findings is that while we should all adopt ‘bags for life’ it is important that we understand the health risks.

  • Use a separate bag for uncooked meats; if the packaging leaks then bin the bag, or put it in the washing machine if it’s a fabric bag.
  • Don’t use a bag for your sports gear one day then for your shopping the next. Think about it – you wouldn’t put your football boots in the fridge – so why put your food shopping in the same bag the boots were in!


Anti-bacterial bags

Did you know that every year there are over 450K cases of food poisoning in the UK, with 80% of reported cases caused by Campylobacter, present in around 70% of all fresh chicken sold in our supermarkets?

Campylobacter is not just found on chicken. A food standards agency report found that 7% of the outer packaging of supermarket chicken also tested positive for Campylobacter. It is estimated that this bacteria kills around 100 people a year.

In 2016 Marks & Spencer became the first supermarket to offer customers a bag for life with anti-bacterial technology. These new bags contain technology called Biomaster that use anti-microbial properties to inhibit the growth of bacteria, thereby reducing the risk of food poisoning by stopping the spread of bacteria like E. coli and Campylobacter. These anti-bacterial bags for life allow shoppers to safely carry raw meat one day and general groceries the next, without the worry of contamination.

At The Printed Bag Shop printed bags for life are our thing. We want users of our bags to be informed and stay safe. Our advice is simple…

  • Have multiple bags for multiple purposes
  • Be careful not to cross-contaminate
  • If in doubt throw it out!


To find out more about bags for life, or even get some of your own printed, give us a call on 0191 268 7555 or email today!