Deadly bacteria can survive in shopping bags for 8 weeks – new study

A new independent study has found that the new 5p plastic bag charge could see an increase in cases of bacterial infection. Reusing carrier bags for a diverse range of contents puts consumers at risk - that is the warning of Professor Anthony Hilton, Head of Biological and Biomedical Science at Aston University.

However, a unique ‘bag for life’ featuring anti-bacterial technology offers hope for safer shopping in future.

The new 5p charge has seen a surge in supermarkets giving out ‘bags for life’ in the past few weeks. Whilst there is no dispute that there are huge environmental benefits to this, Professor Hilton warns of the unintended consequences of reusing plastic bags which the public should be aware of to minimise their risk of exposure to harmful bacteria.

He says:

“Reusing plastic bags is hugely beneficial to the environment but the public should be mindful of the ability of bacteria to contaminate and survive on bags for long periods of time. Bacteria can easily transfer from different types of reuseable bags to the hands and back again. What is more, using the same bag repeatedly for different purposes, increases the risk of contaminating the bag with a whole host of harmful bacteria.”

Professor Hilton and his research team undertook a study of three different types of bag. They investigated the ability of bacteria to survive on the bag and also the ease of transfer of bacteria from the skin to the bag, and the bag to the skin.  Laboratory experiments revealed that:

  • 1 million cells of Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria commonly found on the hands but which can cause illness, when placed on the bag 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
  • Up to 23% of bacteria on plastic bags could  be transferred in a single touch to hands

The Biomaster antibacterial bag for life is already available for sale on Amazon and Stafford-based Addmaster (UK) Ltd. is in talks with major supermarkets to introduce a new bag for life with an innovative antimicrobial technology designed to help reduce the problem of cross-contamination during grocery shopping – a reusable bag that you can use for life, safely.

Developed by Addmaster (UK) Ltd. and made exclusively by UK bag manufacturers Solent Group, the Biomaster anti-bacterial bag is treated with silver-ion technology proven to inhibit the growth of bacteria that might transfer between your bag and your groceries.

When bacteria land on a Biomaster protected surface they cannot replicate and die. The active agent in Biomaster is built into the bag during the manufacturing process, so the protection lasts for the useful lifetime of the bag. 

Addmaster Marketing Manager Karl Shaw comments:”There has been huge demand for our antibacterial bag since the 5p charge was introduced. When it was featured on national TV last week we had over 6,000 online enquiries within a couple of hours, crashing our website”.

The Biomaster antibacterial bag for life is available from Amazon now and in supermarkets soon.

*Please note that Addmaster was acquired by the Polygiene Group AB in January 2021, so all news articles prior to that date will still be branded as Addmaster.