Are the bacteria living in reusable grocery bags making us sick? A new study finds that plastic bag bans may be causing an uptick in emergency room visits and even deaths from common foodborne bacteria like coliform and E.coli.
The bag bans, which are usually justified on environmental grounds, are increasingly popular around the nation and usually incentivize shoppers to replace plastic with reusable canvas or nylon totes.
The study, by Jonathan Klick of University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Property and Environment Research Center and Joshua D. Wright of the George Mason University School of Law, found that in jurisdictions where plastic bags were banned saw ER visits increase by about one-fourth, with a similar increase in deaths compared with neighboring counties where the bags remained legal.
Basically people were schlepping leaky packages of meat and other foods in their canvas bags, then wadding to the bags somewhere for awhile, leaving bacteria to grow until the next trip, when they tossed celery or other foods likely to be eaten raw in the same bags.
Washing your bags reduces the risk, but let's be honest: who does that?
To quote the study:
We find that the San Francisco County ban is associated with a 46 percent increase in deaths from foodborne illnesses. This implies an increase of 5.5 annual deaths for the county.
In short: Plastic bag bans are killing Californians. You are next. Sorry.
For more on plastic bags, see Reason TV's video on L.A.'s plastic bag ban: