Norovirus spread by reusable grocery bag

by NW Spotlight

The Oregonian, and a number of local TV stations – including KOIN and KGW – are reporting that in October 2010 an Oregon girls’ soccer team became violently ill with a norovirus they got from eating cookies that had been carried in a reusable grocery bag.

Oregon scientists ran lab tests to verify the reusable grocery bag was the culprit, and the report on their finding was just published today in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. The OHSU & Oregon Public Health Division report in the Journal of Infectious Diseases notes “this also illustrates one of the less obvious hazards of reusable grocery bags.”

There have been warnings of the health risks posed by reusable grocery bags, but those concerns have sometimes been overridden by politicized environmental drives to ban plastic bags. Perhaps this unfortunate case will help raise awareness of the health dangers posed by reusable grocery bags – and make state and local governments more open to the value of consumer choice and to the value of plastic bags.

As was noted in a March 2012 Oregon Catalyst article on a potential Corvallis bag ban, plastic bags are 100% recyclable and are made in the U.S., using domestic natural gas and they support American jobs.

  • Crabman34

    This is pure idiocy, and sad to boot.  The intentional scientific illiteracy of the modern conservative movement is horrifying.  You wonder why people don’t want to trust you as leaders?  It’s because this type of purposeful obtuseness and stupefyingly illogical thinking pervades all of your opinions having to do with science, especially as it relates to sustainability, ecology, or climate change.

    Obviously the author didn’t read the underlying study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, even though he/she cites it as proof of his hare-brained thesis.

    Read the study closely.  What was the culprit?  The fact that a girl with norovirus brought a bag of cookies with her into the bathroom, where she then VOMITED and had DIARRHEA, which aerosolized and settled on the bag AND ITS CONTENTS.  No where in that study does it suggest that the material of the bag was to blame.  Here’s what the authors concluded:  “This investigation confirms the potential for aerosol contamination of fomites in norovirus outbreaks, which has long been suspected to contribute to persistent problems on cruise ships, in nursing homes, and other settings”

    Lesson that most rational and logical thinkers would take from this study:  Don’t bring food that you plan to share with others into the toilet with you when you are sick, especially if you plan to have diarrhea and vomit.

    Lesson that conservatives learn from this study:  Climate change is a hoax, reusable bags are the next H1N1.

    Honestly, the utter and absolute stupidity on display on this blog sometimes boggles the mind.

    • guest

      Last two sentences a reminder the chef is two tacos short of a combination plate.   

      • Crabman34

        What does this even mean?  Do you know how to parse sentences?  Heard of sarcasm?  

        • Just doing the math

          Let me clue you in; guest cannot
          or will not write in understandable
          English. I suppose you have imagine
          what he or she is trying to convey. 

    • David Appell


    • 3H

      I’m going to guess that had a plastic bag of cookies been taken into the bathroom under the same circumstances, and events, the result would have been the same as well?  (I confess, I haven’t read the article yet).

      • Crabman34

        Precisely.  And not that difficult a conclusion to infer with even the information that the author had.  Obviously he didn’t *want* to reach that conclusion, so cognitive dissonance took over.

  • Bob Clark

    I wish Portland cityhall would reverse its plastic bag ban, at grocery/store checkouts.  My main reasons are different than indicated in this article.  I frequently walk or bicycle to the grocery store, and paper bags just don’t cut it relative to plastic bags.  Plastic bags are much more flexible and more easily toted.  Paper bags tear easily and don’t hold up in the rain for very long.  Moreover, I don’t want to have to go around with a strap around my neck carrying a reuseable bag back and forth, here and there.  Besides, you have to frequently wash the reuseable bag using detergents. 

    I think myself and other citizens are worthy of a simple plastic bag at check out.  (Instead, as demonstrated in this case, Portland’s cityhall routinely treats juveniles as grown ups and grown ups as juveniles.)

    Portland’s plastic bag ban was rammed through an aloof city hall based on its Bureau of Sustainability (B.S) putting out lies and misinformation.  For example, there is no big texas size island of plastic bags floating around in the North Pacific as purported by the B.S department, and even OSU and Greenpeace environmental scientists called the B.S department on this allegation.  The B.S department also tied plastic bags to peak oil, but plastic bags are largely made from a byproduct of natural gas extraction; and a byproduct which is otherwise flared to the atmosphere.  Too much fact for the false perception oriented Portland cityhall and its B.S Department.

    • Crabman34

      I think it is fair to express your reasons for not wanting to give up the plastic bag.  That said, I don’t see why when you leave your house on your bike you can’t carry a reusable bag. Do you bring a lock?  Where do you store it while en route?  I find it pretty easy to hang a few cloth bags by the door and grab what I need when leaving.  Or storing a few in my car, or in my messenger bag.  Honestly, once you put your mind to it, it ceases to be the huge inconvenience many make it out to be.  It feels like this complaint is rooted in opposition to the concept, not so much the lifestyle impacts.

      Although I disagree with it, the first paragraph of your response is fair-minded and reasonable, but then you get in to the ad hominem attacks and scientific denial that is all too common here and among your conservative brethren.  Calling people with whom you disagree with liars and full of B.S. does nothing to prove points, it just paints you as lazy and wantonly ignorant.

      There is indeed a Texas size patch of garbage, mostly plastic debris.  If you don’t believe that, then there’s nothing I can really do for you.  If you are saying quite literally that the garbage patch is not made exclusively of plastic bags, then of course you are right, but I don’t think that’s what you mean.  (Actually, it should be patches, plural, since there are at least 5 gyres around the worlds oceans where trash and debris collect).  In fact, the Texas-sized one is just one of two in the North Pacific.  See:,0,4917201.story.  Also, it sure seems like Greenpeace still thinks there is a Texas-sized garbage patch in the North Pacific.

      You are half-right about polyethylene.  In North America it is derived from natural gas, but it can be, and is, also derived from oil.  It is not true, though, that polyethylene would otherwise be flared if not for plastic bag demands, there are other products where that material could be used.  Don’t pretend like using plastic bags is saving the climate.  Finally, the peak oil argument is silly since, yes, plastic bags aren’t driving demand, and even if they were, they account for less than 0.5% of a barrel of oil (when made with oil).

      All that said, there is still room for discussion about making plastic bags biodegradable or compostable, deriving polyethylene from renewable crops of grain, or otherwise addressing this problem.  Maybe you disagree with the way that Portland banned the plastic bag (and I agree that some issues merit more discussion and experimentation than in this case), that doesn’t make the merits of reducing our use of polyethylene nominal or stupid.  Ultimately, the reason we should cut back on plastic bags is because even when biodegradable, the absence of light, heat, and moisture in landfills means that they usually don’t biodegrade.  Having lived near a dump, I’m all for reducing the amount of waste we produce, if only for the quality-of-life benefits of those living nearby, let alone the issue of preserving enough space to feed and house the world (which I’m sure we disagree on).

  • Mommiesboy

    But their intentions are good, and really that is all that matters. What is a life or two compared to saving our mother, the earth???

    • Crabman34

      Save lives by not aerosolizing your feces and vomit.  The bags in which we carry our food has nothing to do with the soccer team falling ill.

  • valley person

    What is it with so-called conservatives being so dead set against conservation?  This grocery bag thing has gotten so out of hand. Buy some darn reusable bags with anti-liberal slogans on them, don’t puke in them, and you will be happy and healthy. 

  • David Appell

    “On average, 20 kids die each year from suffocation by plastic bags.” 


  • DA is a DB

    There may be no single issue that so completely demonstrates the dimwittedness of the left as plastic grocery bags.  The bags currently in use are made from what was a waste product, they biodegrade in about a year, and they use much less energy to produce than paper sacks – but because they are a plastic they are, in liberals’ eyes, evil.  

    FYI if you sail through the “Texas sized patch of garbage” you will never know it, because the “garbage” is almost all under a millimeter in size.  It’s also not coming from the U.S., but from those third world stinkholes the libs love to romanticize.

    • David Appell

      It’s the small pieces that are most worrisome, since they get into the food chain. 

    • David Appell

      “Transport and release of chemicals from plastics to the environment and to wildlife,” Emma L. Teuten et al, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 27 July 2009 vol. 364 no. 1526 2027-2045.

    • David Appell

      This story suggests you are very wrong about the biodegradability of plastic bags:

    • David Appell

      “An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds die each year from entanglement or ingestion of plastic.” — J. G. B. Derraik, Marine Polltn. Bull, 44, 842, 2002TED, 2009: Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he’s drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.

    • Crabman34

      Ah yes, it’s not garbage unless it is larger than a millimeter.

      • Ramalama

        So, that means that conservative brains are NOT garbage. My apologies if I have stated otherwise.

  • Manbearpig

    The intentional scientific
    illiteracy of the modern liberal movement is horrifying.  You wonder why
    people don’t want to trust you as leaders?  It’s because this type of
    purposeful obtuseness and stupefyingly illogical thinking pervades all of your
    opinions having to do with science, especially as it relates to sustainability,
    ecology, or climate change.

    • Crabman34

      I fail to see how simply changing the word conservative to liberal proves anything.  My post pointed out actual examples of scientific illiteracy and horribly poor logic.  You just repeated what I said.

      Are too!  Am not!  Are too!

      But wait!  I changed the word back to conservative!  So now I win!


  • breeze97760

    Has anyone asked where these bags are made? My guess is China. Again, dog foods are being recalled due to Chinese crap. Maybe a good start is to NOT buy goods from a country that doesn’t even care what part of an animal it eats. I no longer shop at Walmart, aka China

  • youcantseeme

    As you would wash any other cloth item you use, these bags would need to be washed. That is all.