The PJ Tatler

Ban the Bag, Get the Runs

Or the trots, the Tennessee quick-step, as Civil War soldiers called it.

The LA city council will vote May 23 on a plastic bag ban. Here’s what Angelenos have to look forward to if the ban passes.

Oregon public health officials have traced a nasty outbreak of norovirus infections in a group of soccer players to an unlikely source: a reusable grocery bag contaminated with what some experts are calling “the perfect pathogens.”

The incident is raising questions, once again, about the cleanliness of the portable shopping bags that many consumers use to avoid the paper vs. plastic impact on the environment.

The council’s proposed ban would force consumers to use reusable bags. The soccer team — 13 and 14 year old girls — ate a packed lunch that was carried in reusable grocery bags that were near the first girl who got sick. The bug lived in the bags, the team ate cookies from the bags, and they quickly came down with norovirus effects, vomiting and diarrhea, among other things making it tough to concentrate on soccer.

Norovirus isn’t the only critter that lives in those reusable bags.

While the risk of contracting an illness from any particular reusable bag is low, Schaffner said, the Oregon study follows a 2010 paper by researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University that found large numbers of bacteria in reusable grocery bags, including 12 percent that were contaminated with E. coli.

When scientists stored the bags in the trunks of cars for two hours, the number of bacteria jumped 10-fold.

Stores can wash the bags to kill the bugs, but how many of them will do that without yet another government mandate to force them to? And what would that mandate do to the cost of goods sold in the stores?

Plastic bags, meanwhile, are sanitary and recyclable and make up a tiny fraction of the material that goes into landfills. So we could just keep using them. They’re good enough for the First Lady.