Tax on shopping bags 'will lead to more food poisoning'
Date published: 28th October 2013
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, announced plans to charge 5p for plastic bags in England from 2015 to discourage the use of multiple bags.
The Scottish government will introduce a similar system a year earlier and charges for single-use plastic and paper bags are already in force in Wales and Northern Ireland.
But leading scientists are warning that the move represents a serious risk to public health because reused bags are often “heavily contaminated" with bacteria.
Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, who has chaired two major enquiries into E. coli, said it could result in “an increase in the number of cases of food poisoning”.
"We have to be careful about being too strict in forcing people to re-use bags,” he said.
"There are some bags you should only use once, so I would be very unhappy at having a 5p charge on bags that are being used for food."
He added: “Any bag that's carrying meat, wrapped or unwrapped, shouldn't be used again.
"I would be very surprised if many people washed bags and even if they do they won't necessarily get rid of all of the bugs.
"The bag may look clean but you can still easily find these bugs."
In a new experiment, a Sunday newspaper took a selection of reusable bags for analysis at Glasgow Caledonian University's School of Health and Life Sciences.
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