Study Says: Those Reusable Grocery Bags Are Gonna Kill You!

But Transition Laguna's Chris Prelitz thinks otherwise ...

Nearly two months into Laguna Beach's plastic grocery bag ban, we wanted to find out how it was doing and how retailers were dealing with the whole bring-your-own-reusable-bag-or-prepare-to-pay-ten-cents-per-paper-sack law (or B.Y.O.R.B.O.P.T.P.T.C.P.P.S. for short).

We ventured into all three major Laguna Beach grocery chains—what used to be Plastic Bag Central—but made the mistake of identifying ourselves as reporters to the Pavilions, Ralphs and Albertsons mucky-mucks, who summarily shooed us away after being told we had to call the corporate office if we wanted a quote. Sheesh!

But then we started seeing a study making its way 'round the Interwebs from the reputable-sounding University of Pennsylvania Institute for Law and Economics titled "Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness," authored by two guys named Jonathan Klick and Joshua D. Wright. The 24-page study—which you can read yourself right here, it's the PDF file in the photo box on this page—essentially says this:


Wait, what? Weren't those single-use plastic grocery bags the real evil-doer, since they get eaten by fish and cute little sea lions, and they're made from petroleum, and they just look really ugly when you see one washing up on Main Beach?

That's what we thought, but this study claims otherwise. Seems that when people use the reusable sacks, it increases the liklihood of foodborne illnesses like E. coli and other intestinal bacterial infections, since raw meat and raw meat juices can come into contact with other foods when you're lugging them home. The study even cites deaths that have allegedly occured to people who've used reusable bags.

Sure, washing the bags would seem to solve the problem, but hey, the study says, that's just using water that wouldn't need to be used if these infernal bag bans weren't on the books!

Patch contacted Chris Prelitz of Transition Laguna asking what he thought of the study, since his org was a major supporter of the Laguna Beach bag ban. His verdict: the study is flawed, big time.

"The study connecting reusable bags to foodborne illness has been harshly criticized by peers, as it was an industry requested and FUNDED report," Prelitz wrote us (caps his). "We all know, you get what you pay for."

"The authors, Wright and Klick, were bought and paid by the American Chemistry Council," Prelitz continues. "The very same trade group that represents plastic bag manufacturers, and the same group that wrote letters to City Managers threatening to sue any city that enacted a plastic bag ban."

Prelitz also rails against one of the study's key elements—statistics delving into San Francisco's plastic bag ban, which he says are from a time period before that city's ban even went into effect.

"It's always fun outing eco-bashers that spread misinformation and fear," Prelitz tells Patch. "We have some very real environmental and health challenges. We're living as if we have 4 planets to plunder from, and that can't go on much longer."

Take a gander at the study yourself. What do you think? Tell us in the comments below ...

Roger E. Butow February 16, 2013 at 02:26 AM
Yes, it's also fun outing those who create an issue from bogus mythological cloth, then feed off of it to fluff their business portfolio and get their name memorialized as pseudo-experts. Earth to Mr. Prelitz: The Clean Water Now! Coalition was dissolved on 1/01/2013 (1998-2012), now we're rebuilding as just CLEAN WATER NOW with a potable and reclaimed supply side emphasis. A new logo & website, new mission statement, new board and recalibrated collaborative dynamics. CWN!C was the only NGO in LB history to be appointed sole designated administrators by the Cal Coastal Commission for both the Adopt-A-Beach® & Coastal Cleanup Day programs beginning in 2000. We were given honors every year for our work and I proudly served as its Executive Director for 15 years. I personally summed up and transmitted the sorted trash & recycled reports. For 13 straight years, a total of almost 200 cleanups, we even organized beach cleanups for universities, churches, scouts, corporations as far away as Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point & San Clemente. We collected a mandated database for the CCC, I reported annually. Plastic bags were NEVER found in any significant numbers at ANY of our cleanups. In fact almost non-existent in our volunteers containers. Plastic bags were NEVER a problem. Cigarette butts, plastic bottles & caps, styrofoam, bottles, etc. aplenty. To my knowledge Transition Laguna founders and board members NEVER attended any so ignorance must be bliss, huh?
Max isles February 16, 2013 at 03:09 AM
I have used reusable plastic bags for years. It just seems like the normal (and right) thing to do. I guess it was instilled in me from an early age as have my parents have always used reusable bags. What is more, in my 43 years I have never had the misfortune to be infected with E. coli nor have any of my family. The American Chemistry Council has plenty of money to pay people to say what they want to hear! Organised beach clean ups are great but I hardly ever participate however I do walk on the beach almost daily and always collect trash as I go. I agree, there's lots of other trash - cigarette butts, coffee cups, plastic straws, styrofoam but also plastic bags. Ironically I'm often happy to find a plastic bag on the beach as I can then use it to collect more trash! I find it very sad that one environmentally positioned organisation in Laguna would feel the need to make petty jabs at another. Wouldn't it be better if all the environmental groups in town supported each other or even worked together? I'm certain a lot more would be achieved.
Roger E. Butow February 16, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Max: Prelitz basically did what you wrote, made a pompous petty jab at 2 authors that he'll never meet or actually debate face-to-face. Unfair, one standard for his ilk, one for everyone else. This pontificating posture is typical of he who believes himself to be Pope Pious I. You're using that "we don't feed on our own" rule that isn't egalitarian, realistic or ultimately ethical. If eco-protectionists don't hold themselves to high standards (including the ability or right to self-criticize) then we should stop hectoring, stop pointing blaming fingers. Never mistake activity for achievement. Self-righteousness is rampant among eco-PC groups and especially their elitist leadership. In fact, Chip McDermott (ZERO TRASH) was interviewed and made similar comments to mine vis-a-vis banning single use plastic bags. The ordinance has a feel good quality but what would have been simpler, more logical is increased LB city public works efforts, more public education from eco-NGOs and community groups coupled with increased littering enforcement and attendant fines with teeth. The littering tickets would pay for those increased public works hours. Cost? Zero! Instead, banning was the laziest, easiest path. Mission questionably accomplished but in a complex, indeterminate manner punishing all. Basically a behavioral modification issue became a cause celebre. And Max? The new CWN is no longer a Laguna-based NGO....we're now a regional entity and moved on and out.
Max isles February 16, 2013 at 04:16 PM
positive collaboration is surely better than this bickering so I make this a short comment and my final comment. Agreed, plastic bags are not the only form of trash that is a problem. The plastic bag ban is a positive step but not the final step toward protecting both marine and terrestrial animals. Taking a reusable bag to the store is hardly a significant hardship, suffocating or death from ingestion of a plastic bag is a very significant hardship. Thus, I'm all for the ban and for further steps such as those that you suggest that would further reduce marine trash. It's a beautiful morning so I'm going to get my coffee (in a reusable cup!!!!) and take a walk on the beach :)
Elise Higley February 16, 2013 at 05:02 PM
True, the littering issue and the banning of single use bags are two separate and equally important issues. I have used reusable bags exclusively for over a decade and I am healthy and proud of it. Why would I use so many of the Earth's resources to make a bag and have it delivered to a store, just so that I can put my groceries in it to take home and empty out? Using reusable bags is just common sense. So is not littering. Positive collaboration is the key to solving these massive environmental issues. Let's not get egos and personnel differences get in the way of celebrating environmental steps forward like the single use bag ban in Laguna Beach. Hats off to ALL who care about these issues and are making a difference by being a positive example.
Jennifer February 16, 2013 at 06:34 PM
I also have been using reusable bags for years and never had a digestive illness in my family. I think it is common sense to wash your bags if you have leaks. My bags (Kerribag) are made of nylon and I can wipe clean them with my method kitchen spray. I wonder how many kinds of nasty bacteria would be found if they did some research on car seats! And try to link that to the foodborne illnesses...
Gavin February 16, 2013 at 09:12 PM
Can't we all play nice in the sandbox please ;) Mr Butow, your rant on all your organization has done, and putting down other environmentalists - seems to be very egocentric. How is that helping anything? There are lot's of ways to get to where we need to go. Sad to see this. You're doing worse than anything you accused Mr. Prelitz of doing. Come on! Stop this petty bs.
Gavin February 17, 2013 at 12:51 AM
'May All be Kind to Each Other." - Dalai Lama
Johnny Utah February 20, 2013 at 04:06 AM
That's the problem with democrats...they never want to see the truth to anything, like the study for instance. He didn't even read the study and says it's flawed. I used to live in Long Beach and they did the same bag ban before Laguna. I asked a bagger what he thought. He told me an old man brought in used bags with cockroaches and spiders. Yeah...quite disturbing. It's kind of in contrast with the restaurant taking your leftovers back to the kitchen... a big NO THANKS!
Johnny Utah February 20, 2013 at 04:07 AM
I have Britax and Ricarro and Peg Perego carseats. They are always clean.
Johnny Utah February 20, 2013 at 04:10 AM
Also, I swim in Laguna, Dana, Newport, Seal Beach, etc etc on a weekly basis for the past 20 years. I've only seen plastic bags TWICE in the ocean in that span and they were near the San Gabriel river.


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