This hilarious column would be even more so if it wasn’t such a serious topic. Evolution is at work. The Green agenda can kill.
“[…] and a 46 per cent increase in deaths from ‘food-borne’ illnesses after San Francisco banned plastic bags […]”
Comment from Britain
Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. And there is no greater descent into insanity than among the sirens of the elf’n’safety industry.
It would appear that not a single area of human endeavour is immune from their ministrations. These vigilant guardians of our well-being can detect mortal danger lurking in every microbe.
Over the years, this column has had fun documenting the wilder excesses of the public safety sentinels. They have become almost impossible to parody. From the epidemic of hi-viz clothing to patronising leaflets advising us how to wash our hands, they appear to believe that we are incapable of getting through the day without injury unless we follow their idiotic instructions.
Every week, readers send me fresh examples of elf’n’safety stupidity. For instance, Allen Hanley emailed enclosing a three-page safety manual published by the Univar chemicals company. This spells out precise details for the correct handling of one of its products, a liquid used widely in a number of manufacturing processes.
Under 18 separate sub-headings, the document lists the proper way to deal with everything from spillage to what action to take if the liquid comes into contact with bare skin.
Protective gloves are recommended and ‘splash-proof goggles’ should be worn at all times. ‘Self-contained breathing apparatus and full protective clothing must be worn’ in the event of it catching fire.
You really can’t be too careful, not when you are dealing with an unstable substance described as: ‘Appearance: Clear Liquid. Colour: Colourless. Odour: Almost odourless. Solubility: Soluble in water. Boiling point (C): 100.’
After use, the product must be disposed of ‘in accordance with local authority regulations’. So what is this highly flammable, toxic liquid which must be handled with such meticulous care?
But then, you’d probably worked out we weren’t talking sulphuric acid here.
Only yesterday, Martin Higgs wrote from Shaldon in Devon. Stopping at a service station on the M5, he spotted two employees pulling on hi-viz jackets to complete the hazardous task of transferring doughnuts from a trolley into a plastic display cabinet.
It’s as well as they weren’t handling bottled water, too, otherwise they would also have had to wear protective gloves and ‘splash-proof goggles’ and keep the breathing apparatus handy in case it caught fire.
Just when you think you’ve heard it all, up pops another ‘expert’ with a new dire warning of imminent disaster waiting to strike. Consider the latest threat to our health they have discovered: Bags-for-life.
For the past few years, the Daily Mail has been campaigning to rid the country of the scourge of disposable plastic shopping bags. Supermarkets have responded by selling customers reusable hessian bags for a modest fee.
This has helped reduce the number of discarded bags littering the streets and clogging our countryside and waterways.
Admittedly, there is still some way to go. For some unfathomable reason, the Government is dragging its feet over plans to make all shoppers pay 5p for plastic and paper carrier bags. Although the scheme has already started in Wales and Northern Ireland, it will not be introduced in England until 2015.
But, by and large, the switch to bags-for-life has been embraced enthusiastically. Until now.
Step forward Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen. His department has been investigating the use of hessian bags and has concluded that they pose a serious threat to public health.
The boffins tested a number of reusable bags and pronounced them ‘highly contaminated’ with bacteria. Shoppers who use bags-for-life to carry raw meat and vegetables with dirt still on them are dicing with death. Bacteria from meat and veg can be transferred to other foods, such as fruit, and cause severe food poisoning.
Professor Pennington said that such bags should be ‘machine-washed’ after use. Washing them by hand, even using anti-bacterial spray, is not good enough to kill 100 per cent of all known germs.
He warned: ‘They are really rather difficult to clean. If they are looking a bit grotty, they should be thrown away.’ Doesn’t that rather defeat the object of bags-for-life?
The Aberdeen research follows a study by Pennsylvania University, that found a 25 per cent rise in hospital admissions from bacterial infections and a 46 per cent increase in deaths from ‘food-borne’ illnesses after San Francisco banned plastic bags.
Of course, there is a school of thought which holds that increases in bacterial infections are a direct result of excessive hygiene. We need to be exposed to dirt and a few bugs to build up our immune systems.
I wonder what our mums and grandmothers would make of this latest health scare. My grandmothers used the same shopping bags every day of their lives, without poisoning their families. How long before supermarkets are forced to sell hessian bags-for-life with haz-mat stickers and pages of safety instructions?
I suppose you could always try rinsing them out with purified water. Just don’t forget to wear your hi-viz jacket, protective gloves and splash-proof goggles.