Let's ban plastic shopping bags, and instead require cloth, reusable bags to save the environment! Sounds great, saves money, marine animals, oil, litter, everyone wins!
Until you contract norovirus-indiced diarrhea, that is:
Most alarmingly, the industry has highlighted news reports linking reusable shopping bags to the spread of disease. Like this one, from the Los Angeles Times last May: “A reusable grocery bag left in a hotel bathroom caused an outbreak of norovirus-induced diarrhea and nausea that struck nine of 13 members of a girls’ soccer team in October, Oregon researchers reported Wednesday.” The norovirus may not have political clout, but evidently it, too, is rooting against plastic bags.
Warning of disease may seem like an over-the-top scare tactic, but research suggests there’s more than anecdote behind this industry talking point. In a 2011 study, four researchers examined reusable bags in California and Arizona and found that 51 percent of them contained coliform bacteria. The problem appears to be the habits of the reusers. Seventy-five percent said they keep meat and vegetables in the same bag. When bags were stored in hot car trunks for two hours, the bacteria grew tenfold.
Surely, there must be some way to halt the spread of this nasty bacteria!
That study also found, happily, that washing the bags eliminated 99.9 percent of the bacteria.
It undercut even that good news, though, by finding that 97 percent of people reported that they never wash their bags.
But WAMK, how can any sane person suggest that these bags have anything to do with folks getting sick. Take off your tinfoil hat, and step away from the conspiracy kool-aid.
Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright, who are law professors at the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University, respectively, have done a more recent studyon the public-health impact of plastic-bag bans. They find that emergency-room admissions related to E. coli infections increased in San Francisco after the ban. (Nearby counties did not show this increase.) And this effect showed up as soon as the ban was implemented. (“There is a clear discontinuity at the time of adoption.”) The San Francisco ban was also associated with increases in salmonella and other bacterial infections. Similar effects were found in other California towns that adopted such laws.
Well, at least no one died, right?
Klick and Wright estimate that the San Francisco ban results in a 46 percent increase in deaths from foodborne illnesses, or 5.5 more of them each year.
Oh. So now I learn that reusable grocery bags have killed more people that my gun.
What is needed is a newly-created Government agency to ensure all reusable bags are washed on a regular basis, or face a fine.
That should solve the problem.