Reusable Shopping Bags Traced To Girls' Soccer Team Illnesses

Sometimes, we have to wonder how any customers medically survive grocery trips. We've reported on germ-laden shopping carts and paper POS receipts loaded with the carcinogen BPA. Late on Wednesday (May 9) came word that one of the nastiest bugs around—the norovirus—infected an Oregon girls' soccer team and that it was traced to a reusable grocery bag the girls passed around as they shared cookies.

"The latest outbreak of norovirus reinforces the research we have conducted about the propensity of reusable grocery bags to act as hosts for dangerous foodborne bacteria and viruses," said Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor in the Departments of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. "This incident should serve as a warning bell: permitting shoppers to bring unwashed reusable bags into grocery and retail stores not only poses a health risk to baggers but also to the next shoppers in the checkout line." The scenario isn't so far-fetched. All it takes is a bag with raw chicken that leaks—or an egg that cracks—and the bag becomes highly contaminated. It then leaves those contaminants on the conveyor belt, which it shares with the bananas being purchased by the next customer. A good hot water washing with a lot of bleach should remove the hazard, but how many shoppers even think to try?