TRENTON, N.J. – As the state tries to slow the spread of COVID-19, Assemblyman John DiMaio is urging food stores to temporarily ban the use of reusable bags, which could pose a significant threat to public health, and provide single-use plastic and paper bags to consumers.
“Reusable bags can inadvertently carry disease from home to the market,” said DiMaio (R-Warren). “Study after study has proven that reusable tote bags harbor dangerous germs and viruses. We also know that the new coronavirus can live on surfaces and that reusable bags are frequently placed on various surfaces in the kitchen, including tables and cooking areas. More than ever we need to be vigilant. There is no higher priority than public health right now.”
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health researchers shows the coronavirus could live up to two to three days on plastic or steel. Another study found that it could can stay on surfaces for as long as nine days. New York state officials have announced they won’t enforce their plastic bag ban until May 15 amid concerns that it would promote the spread of the coronavirus.
“Even if shoppers wash their reusable bags, which in some ways negates their environmental benefits, they still need to wrap their meats and vegetables in plastic to ensure they don’t contaminate other food or their bag with bacteria like E. coli or salmonella,” explained DiMaio.
“We don’t need to be risking people’s lives any more than is already happening. Plastic and paper makes sense at this time, and maybe in the future. At the least, using plastic and paper now should probably be a requirement, not a choice.”
A 2011 study from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found bacteria in 99 percent of the reusable bags they tested. A group that represents the U.S. plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry reported that as many as nine out of 10 people who go to grocery stores are at risk of infection because of contaminated reusable bags that cross-contaminated another surface. In fact, an outbreak of viral gastroenteritis among a girls’ soccer team in Oregon was traced to a reusable grocery bag.
There is evidence of community spread among New Jersey’s 1,914 COVID-19 cases. Twenty people in the state have died from the coronavirus.