Anti-Activist Group Finds More Lead in Bags

A group that campaigns against what it describes as government infringement on free choice said it has found high lead content in several types of reusable bags offered by food retailers, including Safeway, Bloom, Piggly Wiggly, Giant Eagle, Brookshire Brothers and Stater Bros.

WASHINGTON — A group here that campaigns against what it describes as government infringement on free choice said it has found high lead content in several types of reusable bags offered by food retailers, including Safeway, Bloom, Piggly Wiggly, Giant Eagle, Brookshire Brothers and Stater Bros.

The Center for Consumer Freedom, which also campaigns against such things as soda taxes and other anti-obesity efforts, said it undertook the testing after seeing local reports about the lead content in some bags and after several local governments have taken steps to discourage the use of disposable plastic or paper bags through taxes or bans.

"There are unintended consequences when you try to change consumer behavior, especially when it comes to bandwagon-style legislation, and that's what this is," said J. Jason Wilson, a senior research analyst at CCF.

Considering the high number of reusable bags that have been imported into the U.S. — nearly 3 billion since 1999, according to some reports — "we are turning reusable bags into disposable bags," he said.

For this study, the CCF tested reusable bags — primarily those made from non-woven polypropylene — from 44 retailers, and found that 16 of those retailers carry bags that had lead levels of 100 parts per million or more, either in the bags themselves or, in many cases, in the plastic inserts used to provide stability in the bottom of the bags. The 100 ppm threshold was used because it is a maximum allowed by several states for lead content in consumer packaging, Wilson said.

Other retailers whose bags tested positive include Walgreens, CVS — which recalled some of its bags in November — and Staples. Previous studies found high lead content in the reusable bags of other food retailers, including Wegmans, Publix and Winn-Dixie.

King Kullen said it pulled bags as a precautionary measure but that no lead was found in its bags.