NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness

January 17, 2013

Recently, many jurisdictions have implemented bans or imposed taxes upon plastic grocery bags on environmental grounds, say Jonathan Klick of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Joshua D. Wright of the George Mason University School of Law.

There is evidence, however, that reusable grocery bags, a common substitute for plastic bags, contain potentially harmful bacteria. Wright and Klick examine emergency room admissions related to these bacteria in the wake of San Francisco's 2007 countywide ban covering large grocery stores and drug stores. San Francisco extended this ban to all retail establishments in early 2012.

  • They find that emergency room visits spiked when the ban went into effect.
  • Relative to other counties, emergency room admissions increase by at least one-fourth and deaths exhibit a similar increase.

Source: Joshua D. Wright and Jonathan Klick, "Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness," Social Science Research Network, November 2, 2012.


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