Reusable shopping bags are a common sighting in grocery stores nowadays. With supermarkets as predictable as Whole Foods pointing to an array of cloth bags to even the more mainstream Ralphs, reusable bags for grocery shopping are no longer necessarily for the niche hippie communities. But after one girls’ soccer team fell quite ill during a weekend tournament, the culprit was determined not as food poisoning — just one dirty bag.
Msnbc reports that the soccer team of 13- and 14-year-old girls exhibited vomiting and diarrhea on a weekend tournament while traveling from Beaverton and Tigard, Oregon to Washington state. Within 48 hours, nine people on the trip were ill. And even after the first team player got sick and moved to a different room with chaperons — ultimately leaving the next morning — seven more people still managed to find themselves on the bathroom floor.
The problem turned out to not be a questionable team dinner at a greasy restaurant, but one gross bag that had been contaminated with norovirus. Turns out when the first soccer player fell ill, her gastrointestinal problems had contaminated a reusable grocery bag in her room which contained snacks for the other players. So even after she went home, a Sunday lunch brought havoc on the entire team.
The risk of contracting a norovirus from a reusable bag is low, but simply by washing them, families could be decreasing bacteria by 99.9%. And considering that nonviruses are stubborn — capable of being transmitted without person-to-person contact — parents would do well to give those bags a Lysol rubdown:
The trouble with noroviruses — which cause an estimated 21 million cases of gastroenteritis a year, some 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths — is that they’re tough bugs that can live for prolonged periods on objects and surfaces, said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Many families who live in car-centric cities also have a tendency to keep those reusable bags in their car simply to avoid using plastic. But maintaining such a routine without washing said bags could increase the bacteria by 10-fold, just by having the bags in the trunk for two hours according to one study. Multiple that over weeks and weeks of grocery trips and you probably have a good idea of the amount of filthy most families are placing their organic veggies into.
Kimberly K. Repp, an epidemiologist with the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services in Hillsboro, says that families should absolutely remember to keep those cloth bags clean:
”We wash our clothes when they’re dirty; we should wash our bags, too.”
More to add to the ever-increasing laundry pile, I suppose.