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The Food Standards Agency has warned of a possible food poisoning risk from reusable shopping bags, also known as ‘bags for life’. The watchdog has advised using separate bags for household products, ready-to-eat foods and raw meat.

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The Risk

Reusable shopping bags can harbour and transfer dangerous bacteria if used for carrying raw produce such as meat and fish, the FSA has warned consumers. The Government’s watchdog on food safety has revised the advice it offers on its website, recommending that consumers practice using separate bags for carrying cooked food, raw food and household items such as washing powder.

Surprisingly, research has claimed that perhaps reusable bags aren’t as good for the environment as previously thought. A study by the Environment Agency claimed that the production of tote bags actually has a more significant environmental impact than a standard plastic bag.

This new guidance aims to reduce any contamination of bacteria, and encourages shoppers to follow robust hygiene practices while shopping and storing food at home.


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Deadly bugs such as campylobacter and E coli can cause stomach problems, and can be carried on exterior packaging. Raw foods such as fish and meat, eggs and loose soil-covered vegetables can contain bacteria on their surface which causes food poisoning. These bugs can be transferred when bags are reused, even if there is no sign of food leakage.

Possible Solutions

If there is visible leakage, spillage or soiling of your purchased produce, your cotton bags should be machine washed to ensure they are hygienic, or replaced if they are plastic.

Food establishments should consider installing slimline serve over counters, found at specialist suppliers such as https://www.fridgefreezerdirect.co.uk/serve-over-counters.

The FSA has suggested that one solution would be to label or colour code your bags to avoid cross-contamination of food. Also ensure you have enough bags with you when shopping to carry your non-food items, ready-to-eat and raw foods separately, and once a plastic bag has been used for raw food, ensure that it is disposed of afterwards.

Food suppliers are also expected to adhere to these strict rules within their factories. It has recently emerged that Britain’s largest supplier of chicken for supermarkets, 2 Sisters Food Group, ceased production at one of its processing plants after an investigation into poor food safety records and hygiene practices.

About The Author

Sneha Srimani is a Bachelor of Science graduate in health education. She is also social media manager at NucleusAccumbens.com. Before coming to Nucleus Accumbens, she worked as a Jr. Medical Physicist. Now she decided to share her experience and medical information through this blog.