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Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness

By   /   January 17, 2013  /   23 Comments

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reusable-bagsRecently, many jurisdictions have implemented bans or imposed taxes upon plastic grocery bags on environmental grounds, say Jonathan Klick of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Joshua D. Wright of the George Mason University School of Law.

There is evidence, however, that reusable grocery bags, a common substitute for plastic bags, contain potentially harmful bacteria. Wright and Klick examine emergency room admissions related to these bacteria in the wake of San Francisco’s 2007 countywide ban covering large grocery stores and drug stores. San Francisco extended this ban to all retail establishments in early 2012.

They find that emergency room visits spiked when the ban went into effect.

Relative to other counties, emergency room admissions increase by at least one-fourth and deaths exhibit a similar increase.

Source: Joshua D. Wright and Jonathan Klick, “Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness,” Social Science Research Network, November 2, 2012.

via Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness.

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  1. Terry Elam Terry Elam says:

    Though the ban did not go into effect until after September 29 2012, according to the post, they were able to access the damage on November 2, 2012. A 3 day spike? Good reporting! GOTO ABC Story

    • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

      Wright and Klick examine emergency room admissions related to these bacteria in the wake of San Francisco’s 2007 countywide ban covering large grocery stores and drug stores.

      What part of 2007 confuses you Terry?

  2. Terry Elam Terry Elam says:

    While we’re on a germ phobia…Did you wash your hands? I’m much more concerned with the grocery carts or that purse on the counter. Why the propaganda?

    • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

      Well yes I did….

      So you find no problem with poultry juices spilling in your favorite bag and peculating for week… You think that is propaganda? really?

      I have a feeling you do not wash or bleach wipe your bags after every use… And that is the point of the research.

      • Terry Elam Terry Elam says:

        Do you bleach the trunk of your car? Your wife’s purse?
        How about the soles of your shoes?
        That was not the point. The point was someone was upset with regulations and wanted to start some false hysteria over it. It wasn’t even well done. It was cheap propaganda.

        E-coli for example is wide spread. It just isn’t a threat unless it is acid resistant. IOW, we can’t digest it. Bacteria needs food, just like we do.A dry plastic resin bag is not very hospital. If it was we would have e-coli blowing all over the desert.

        Honestly, I always forget the recyclable bags when I go to the store. I would buy more…Not very earth friendly.
        The best method IMO is to not take a bag to start with. Secondly, reuse the disposable bags. If you’re diligent use the recyclable bags.

        • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

          You would eat from your wifes purse, or the truck of your car? You mean you would eat something stuck to the sole of your shoe? Are you sure you are not a beagle or perhaps a Labrador retriever??

          I can see you would fail the food Safe test on restaurant management…. but what the heck this is the role you have decided to play…. play it up big! But we give no rewards for the best dramatic role in a blog comment.

          Just quit while you are ahead…..

  3. LINDAG LINDAG says:

    I got a great idea! Take a plastic bag from the grocery store and use it to line your reusable cloth bag!…oh, I am brilliant. I should be a politician!

  4. Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

    Reusable bags linked to norovirus outbreak | kgw.com Portland

    PORTLAND – A new report shows those reusable grocery bags that help save the environment can also make you sick.

    A study published Wednesday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases details a girls’ soccer team trip from Beaverton to Seattle in 2010. Nine people were sickened by norovirus within 48 hours after they all ate cookies from the same reusable grocery bag.

    Two years ago, researchers at the University of Arizona found quantities of bacteria in reusable bags — including E. coli.

    “We all knew norovirus goes up in the air and lands on everything,” epidemiologist Kimberly Repp with Washington County Public Health said. “We’ve isolated norovirus on door handles and keyboards but we’ve never been able to show that touching that door handle or keyboard then introducing into your body gets you sick, so this was a nice link for the full picture of the transmission for norovirus.”

    Repp stressed reusable bags are safe, but only if they are kept clean and disinfected.

    Researchers in the Washington County Health Department recommend washing the reusable bags like dishtowels. The bags coated in plastic can be wiped with disinfectant or sprayed with a mix of vinegar and water.

    Many shoppers store their bags in the car between use but storing them in the house is better. The car trunk can get warm and become a breeding ground for any bacteria on the bag.

    • Terry Elam Terry Elam says:

      A 2010 norovirus outbreak among a girls’ soccer team demonstrates how easily the virus can spread. One player became sick during a tournament in Seattle. The girl spent the night in a chaperone’s room and used the bathroom several times. Stored in the bathroom was a reusable grocery bag filled with cookies and chips. After eating snacks from the bag, six other team members became sick with the same strain of norovirus. Although the girl had not touched the bag, she was the likely source of the infectious norovirus particles that had settled through the air of the bathroom onto the bag and its contents.

      Research-Priceless. Don’t keep your cookies in the crapper. Where’s the outrage???

      • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

        You know you can keep trying as you might to defend the evils of reusable bags and believe me no one is going to try to take your bags away. But you are unwilling to adhere to reasonable regulations concerning the proliferation of reusable bags.

        If by banning certain reusable bags we can save one child’s life wouldn’t you agree, Isn’t it all worth it?

        • Terry Elam Terry Elam says:

          Plastic bags can suffocate a child. Where’s the hysteria? Do you hate kids? Don’t you care? Examine your motives and tell the truth.

          • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

            What is wrong with you? Why are you trying to change the subject? Why are you so unwilling to accept reasonable reusable bag controls? Look no on is trying to take your Trader Joe Bag away our concerns are with those Walmart and Target bags. It is all about the Children dude… You do not need dozens of reusable bags, they pose a far too high of a risk to unsuspecting children, we need reasonable regulations and eventually ban them… sorry your Rights must be trumped when it comes to “the Children.”

            • Terry Elam Terry Elam says:

              “we need reasonable regulations”
              Now you’re getting to your point. It really has very little to do with the children or the elderly or veterans or jobs or any of the other scapegoats.
              It has only to do with your political opinion about government imposed regulations.
              Now once again, take that bag off of your head.

            • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

              go ahead Terry poo poo the need for reasonable regulation of reusable shopping bags… Go ahead and cling to some old antiquated document signed by a bunch of old slave owners.

              The children have the right to live safe from reusable shopping bags and your rights be damned!

            • Terry Elam Terry Elam says:

              Stop it already.
              I don’t take you for an idiot. Stop playing the role.
              you know the difference.

  5. Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

    Explosive CDC Omission: Norovirus Spread Through Reusable Grocery Bags

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently expanded its website to include a norovirus toolkit advising the ways in which one might contract the killer virus.  

    Among the public health agency’s prescribed practices to stop the spread of the virus: “Practice proper hand hygiene … Take care in the kitchen … Do not prepare food while infected … Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces after throwing up or having diarrhea … Wash laundry thoroughly.”

    But nowhere in that exhaustive battery of norovirus dodges was a recommendation to avoid reusable grocery bags. Curious, considering that reusable-but-not-recyclable alternative to single-use plastic bags were recently linked to an unsavory outbreak of norovirus that struck a hapless middle school-aged girls’ soccer team.

    The proliferation of the virus, which is estimated to cause 21 million of acute cases of gastroenteritis and the deaths of some 200,000 children annually, via the bags is in part the result of an unfortunate merger of form and function.

    Successive studies have shown reusable bags to host bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and fecal coliform in addition to norovirus. One study even found the bacteria build-up on reusable bags was 300 percent higher than what is considered a safe level by public health officials. 

    Researchers at the University of Arizona sampled 84 reusable bags from shoppers in Los Angeles, the most recent major municipality to ban plastic bags, and two additional bag-outlawed cities. The findings were stunning: just over half were contaminated with some form of harmful bacteria while at least twelve percent contained traces of fecal matter. When the contaminated bags were housed in car trunks for two hours, scientists found the number of bacteria was boosted ten-fold.

    One recent study found only three out of every twenty Americans wash their reusable grocery bags with any regularity.

  6. Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

    You know since we started this thread I have gotten dozens of letters from “Children” in support of reasonable reusable bag controls. This letter by Becky Sue Ledbetter of Wrinkle Creek, North Dakota is a representative example.

    Dear Mr. O’Brien

    My name is Becky and I live in Wrinkle Creek, North Dakota and I am 10 years old. I am writing you to please take them them nasty reusable shopping bags away from my Mommy.

    My Brother Luther was killed by a reusable shopping bag… Mommy let the Cat play it it and Luther died of terminal Ringworm.

    My mommy puts the babies dirty diapers in some of the bags then goes shopping with them.

    Please demand reasonable Reusable Bag Controls.

    Your Friend
    Becky Sue Ledbetter

    How can you not be moved by that letter? What the hell is wrong with you? Come on really I don’t think you would follow any reasonable regulation of reusable bags would you?

  7. LINDAG LINDAG says:

    Gee, I didn’t realize this was such a serious discussion. I was just joshin’. My reusable bags get used for just about everything EXCEPT groceries…I do throw them into the washing machine quite often, but almost never remember to take them into the grocery store with me…what do you think is the answer, Dan?

    • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

      Well Linda, you seem a responsible reusable bag owner, and believe me we are not talking about taking your bags away…. It is those other people out there that have no idea of what they are doing… We need background checks and at least 15 day waiting periods…. these are reasonable regulations to prevent the deaths of children. The government has a vested interest in knowing who has possession of reusable shopping bags, it is a health and safety issue.

    • Terry Elam Terry Elam says:

      That’s actually what I end up doing with them. Everything but groceries. They do get washed just like other textiles. It’s not the big deal the anti regulatory folks make it out to be.
      Next we’ll have disposable clothing for the germaphobes? To save the kids!!!

      • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

        What do you mean by, It’s not the big deal the anti regulatory folks make it out to be?

        Seriously if we can save one child’s life from the deadly scourge of dirty unregulated reusable shopping bags, it would be all worth it.

        You just don’t like children.

  8. Don’t forget to line your shopping cart (trolley.)


    Check out the disinfection chamber for shopping carts too.

    I liked the florescent light investigations that exposed germs and poor sanitation conditions of hotel bedspreads, household counters,door knobs, etc. Remember them? A new Reality Show…CSI:Germs to educate the public.

    Thanks DanO. This is a serious subject….our hospitals are combating drug resistant germs that evolve to overcome antibiotics. MRSA and C-Diff are a big problem in our society.

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