Your reusable shopping bag might tote more than just your groceries.
While we certainly applaud you for being conscientious enough to use reusable shopping bags, there are new findings from the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) that say you should pay attention to your eco-friendly shopping totes and what exactly goes inside them.
The Guardian reports that the FSA updated their website and consumer guidance section to advise shoppers to use stringent caution in bagging raw foods, ready-to-eat items, and toxic materials like household cleaners in reusable bags.
It appears your reusable bag can serve as a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes food poisoning when it comes in contact with raw foods. The same rule applies if you’re mixing food items with bleach in the same tote bag you’ve been using for an extended period of time.
It seems obvious enough – cross-contamination can easily occur in kitchens, but we never really put thought into how the surfaces of our reusable bags can also be contaminated by the things we place inside them. The FSA wants to educate people to encourage them to have separate bags for items like raw meat and fish. They also recommend washing reusable bags in the same manner as clothing to get rid any unwanted bacteria.
It may seem like extra work, but the Guardian reports that E coli and campylobacter, two deadly bacteria that can cause stomach bugs and other illnesses, has been proven to transfer from packaging to the interior of reusable bags even without instances where it has been torn or has leaked open.
It might be time to purchase a few more reusable bags and designate one specific bag to carry raw meat, another for non-edible items, and a third for produce – a system to ensure you’re not accidentally contaminating the fresh foods you just purchased.