According to an exclusive article in the February 13 edition of PublicCEO.com, a local government news site dedicated to providing a statewide perspective on California’s cities, counties and special districts, there is.
Researchers in a new study produced by the Institute for Law and Economics—a joint project of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the Wharton School, and the Department of Economics in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania—found a significant increase in emergency room visits for food-related illnesses.
“These bans are designed to induce individuals to use reusable grocery bags, in the hope that a reduction in the use of plastic bags will lead to less litter,” reads the report. “Recent studies, however, suggest that reusable grocery bags harbor harmful bacteria, the most important of which is E. coli. If individuals fail to clean their reusable bags, these bacteria may lead to contamination of the food transported in the bags. Such contamination has the potential to lead to health problems and even death.”
According to the researchers’ data, coliform bacteria was found in 51% of randomly selected reusable grocery bags from consumers in grocery stores in Arizona and California. E. coli was found in 8% of the bags examined.
Most people fail to use separate bags for meats and vegetables, leading to cross-contamination, and researchers discovered that “97% of individuals indicated they never washed their reusable bags.”
On the one hand, the bags present a real and significant environmental threat, but apparently their replacement with reusable bags ushers in some health and safety hazards overlooked in the search for a quick solution. I suspect there are some who feel that those who don’t bother to wash their bags deserve a place in line for a future Darwin Award. But given that the underlying purpose of waste management is public health and safety, I wonder if there might be a better solution to the plastic bag menace than bans.