Bag Bans And Shoplifting Spikes In Seattle Spark E. Coli Research

plastic bag bans linked to increase in E. Coli

Seattle, WA – Seattle has banned the use of plastic bags in grocery stores for the greater good of the environment. However several grocery store owners say this action has been calamitous to their bottom line.

Shoppers have resorted to using reusable totes since the City Council unanimously voted in the plastic bag ban in July. Businesses in Seattle charge a nickel for paper bags in order to encourage consumers to use the more environmentally friendly reusable bags. Since the ban has been in effect, shoplifting has soared and stores are losing thousands in both stolen merchandise and carrier basket costs.

According to data released in January by Seattle Public Utilities, 21.1 percent of business owners surveyed said increased shoplifting because of the plastic bag ban was a problem.

Jan Gee, president of the Washington Food Industry Association, said in response to the trend of theft:

“Across the United States we have seen these bag bans, and the shoplifting has always had a substantial leap, and so it was not a surprise to us.”

Canvas totes make it harder for loss-prevention officers to detect what the customers have purchased versus what they may have brought with them. This leads to the inevitable rise of shoplifting.

Carrier baskets are loaded up with merchandise and taken from the store. Merchants have tried eliminating the use of baskets entirely, but the action upset customers.

Something equally unpleasant as theft has also been tied to the changes in bag-use. An environmental advocacy group has uncovered a spike in E. coli cases “linked to filthy reusable totes.” Evidence suggests the E. coli outbreak coincides with the bag ban.


Escherichia coli (abbreviated as E. coli) are a large and diverse group of bacteria. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses, informs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pathogenic E. coli strains are categorized into pathotypes. Six pathotypes are associated with diarrhea and collectively are referred to as diarrheagenic E. coli.

E. coli can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons. Washing the reusable bags can eliminate nearly all of the harmful bacteria, but consumers rarely bother to do it.