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The Covid-19 outbreak is giving new meaning to those “sustainable” shopping bags that politicians and environmentalists have been so eager to impose on the public. These reusable tote bags can sustain the Covid-19 and flu viruses—and spread the viruses throughout the store.

The Covid-19 virus is just one of many pathogens that shoppers can spread unless they wash the bags regularly, which few people bother to do. Viruses and bacteria can survive in the tote bags up to nine days, according to one study of coronaviruses.

The risk of spreading viruses was clearly demonstrated in a 2018 study published in the Journal of Environmental HealthThe researchers, led by Ryan Sinclair of the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, sent shoppers into three California grocery stores carrying polypropylene plastic tote bags that had been sprayed with a harmless surrogate of a virus.

After the shoppers bought groceries and checked out, the researchers found sufficiently high traces of the surrogate to risk transmission on the hands of the shoppers and checkout clerks, as well as on many surfaces touched by the shoppers, including packaged food, unpackaged produce, shopping carts, checkout counters, and the touch screens used to pay for groceries. The researchers said that the results warranted the adaptation of “in-store hand hygiene” and “surface disinfection” by merchants, and they also recommended educating shoppers to wash their bags.

An earlier study of supermarkets in Arizona and California found large numbers of bacteria in almost all the reusable bagsand no contamination in any of the new single-use plastic bags. When a bag with meat juice on the interior was stored in the trunk of a car, within two hours the number of bacteria multiplied tenfold.

The researchers also found that the vast majority of shoppers never followed the advice to wash their bags. One of the researchers, Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, said that the findings “suggest a serious threat to public health,” particularly from fecal coliform bacteria, which was found in half the bags. These bacteria and other pathogens can be transferred from raw meat in the bag and also from other sources. An outbreak of viral gastroenteritis among a girls’ soccer team in Oregon was traced to a resuable grocery bag that had sat on the floor of a hotel bathroom.

New York’s state officials were told of this risk before they passed the law banning plastic bags. In fact, as the Kings County Politics website reported, a Brooklyn activist, Allen Moses, warned that shoppers in New York City could be particularly vulnerable because they often rest their bags on the floors of subway cars containing  potentially deadly bacteria from rats—and then set the bag on the supermarket checkout counter. Yet public officials remain committed to reusable bags.

The department advises grocery shoppers to segregate different foods in different bags; to package meat and fish and poultry in small disposable plastic bags inside their tote bags; to wash and dry their tote bags carefully; to store the tote bags in a cool, dry place; and never to reuse the grocery tote bags for anything but food.

If the Department of Health actually prioritized public health, it would acknowledge what food manufacturers and grocers have known for decades: disposable plastic is the cheapest, simplest, and safest way to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Herfra

Og hvor hærger Wuhanvirus mest lige nu?

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