A coronavirus-induced wake-up call

Dear Editor:

Perhaps the coronavirus pandemic will open people’s eyes to the unsanitary, pathogen-transferring practice of reusable grocery bags. A little thought to where these bags travel before returning to the grocery store should alarm anyone with an ounce of common sense. A study found 97 percent of people using these bags do not sanitize them — ever! Starting when leaving the store, I’ve seen bags set on the pavement before being placed in their vehicles. That’s the same pavement people spit on, crush cigarettes, walk and drive on. It is also where seagulls, other birds and animals have walked and defecated.

Bags are then placed in the trunk or rear of their SUVs or pickup trucks. That’s the same place they haul their garbage, to name just one of many unsanitary items placed in these areas. Who knows what kind of bacteria, virus, fungi or parasite-laden, creeping crud has oozed out of those garbage bags?

Eventually these bags will head back to the grocery store. You never know where any of these bags have been. And guess what? Whatever ends up on those bags may very well end up on your family’s food supply!

If someone wants to take their disposable plastic or paper bags and do everything mentioned in the earlier paragraphs, that’s their business, unwise as it may be. But, when reusable bags are brought back into the store to contaminate other people’s food, that’s when people should put their foot down and demand a change to this ill-conceived idea that is a serious threat to public health. Unfortunately, there are people who are ignorant to proper hygiene and sanitation. There are others who could care less, regardless how it affects anyone, including themselves. For this reason, educating the public is not the answer. Do you want to risk the well-being, or possible death, of your infant child, your pregnant wife, your elderly parents or grandparents, or family members with compromised immune systems? They are the most vulnerable to food-borne illnesses and viruses such as flu and coronavirus. In recent years, flu-related deaths annually have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2015-16 season was mild with an estimated 12,000 deaths. That season an estimated 24.5 million were stricken with the flu, resulting in 11 million medical visits, and 308,000 hospitalizations. The annual direct cost for hospitalizations and outpatient visits is an estimated $10.4 billion. That does not include the loss of billions due to lost wages to employees, profits to employers or funeral costs to the families of the deceased. The cost to the economy for coronavirus may reach $1 trillion. Obviously, early containment is critical.

The country is shutting down to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Sporting events, amusement parks, schools, cruise lines, all closing. Social distancing is recommended. Don’t touch or get close to anyone. Wash hands and sanitize everything. But, bringing into grocery stores reusable bags that may be contaminated with life-threatening flu or coronavirus is just fine! By any sense of logic this is mind-numbingly ignorant.

To their credit, some of the coffee shop chains will no longer accept reusable cups. It is high time that grocery store owners stop bowing to political correctness and ban this disgusting practice to ensure the safety and very lives of their customers.

Michael Briggs

Blue Hill

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