Seattle sees spike in shoplifting, food-borne illness after plastic bag ban

A Seattle grocery store has complained of losing thousands in revenue due to shoplifting since the city council unanimously passed a ban on plastic bags last summer.

Mike Duke, who operates the Lake City Grocery Outlet with his wife, told Seattle Pi that since the plastic bag ban began in July, he’s lost at least $5,000 in produce and between $3,000 and $4,000 in frozen food.

“We’ve never lost that much before,” he said.

The city council passed the ban in order to help the environment, which required businesses to tax a nickel for paper bags.

Store owners, however, say that reusable totes make customers’ purchases harder to track. The reusable bags can also carry food-borne illnesses if they’re not washed often, the owners argue.

According to data released in January by Seattle Public Utilities, 21.1 percent of business owners said their stores experienced an increase in shoplifting because of the ban.

The Lake City Grocery Outlet has also found an increase in stolen hand baskets from people loading their basket and leaving the store.

One study released late summer, citing San Francisco’s emergency room treatment data, said “after the bag ban began there was a spike in the number of E. coli cases and an increase of deaths from food-borne illnesses,” Seattle Pi reports.

Another paper from 2011 found E. coli in 8 percent of all reusable bags from randomly selected individuals at California and Arizona grocery stores, Seattle Pi reports.

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