Since the 5p carrier bag charge came in to force, more of us reach for a ‘bag for life’ to carry our food shopping. But, this environmentally-friendly (or cost saving) act could pose a food poisoning risk, say The Food Standards Agency (FSA).
The consumer watchdog warn that a food poisoning risk arises if the reusable bags are used to carry raw meats and fish, such as shop-bought chicken, in the same bags as ready-to-eat items.
While food poisoning incidents of this kind are rare, the FSA advise to use separate bags for raw food, ready-to-eat items and cleaning products/household items. Chuck out any bags for life that are damaged or contain visible spillage. If using fabric bags, wash and clean when soiled. The experts also recommend colour-coding or labelling bags to avoid any confusion. It is also recommended you wash your hands when you get home.
The FSA website advises:
“Ideally, you should have enough bags to carry raw foods, ready-to-eat foods and non-food items such as washing powder separately.
“Keep enough bags for life for raw foods only and don’t use the same bags again for ready-to-eat foods or for carrying other household items.”
“If it doesn’t have a label, you could either colour code the bags (including by theme if the bag has a particular design) or mark on the bags to help you keep raw items separate.”
“Even if there are no obvious spillages or staining after several uses, we would recommend that cotton/fabric bags for life be machine-washed regularly if they have been used for carrying raw items.”
Earlier this year, the FSA’s Heather Hancock wrote to supermarkets to ask them to provide shoppers with disposable bags for raw poultry. Amongst other bacteria, raw chicken carries campylobacter – a leading cause of food poisoning. “Even wrapped raw foods such as pre-packed fresh chicken, fish, etc. may have traces of harmful bugs on the outside of the packaging,” explain the FSA.
UK shoppers used approximately six billion fewer single-use plastic bags last year, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.