Reusable shopping bags are great for reducing waste, but if we don’t follow food safe practices, they may increase the risk of food contamination. Reusable shopping bags can be a home for germs and nasty bugs that can make us sick.
In Australia there are 4.1 million cases of gastro each year and around 55,000 cases of Salmonella. The total cost to society for food-borne illness or food poisoning in Australia is $1.249 billion each year. So how can we reduce our risk? There’s just a few simple practices you need to follow to make sure your reusable bags are clean.
- 1. Wash your bags regularly
If you bag has washing instructions, be sure to follow those. If not, generally any linen bags or those made of natural fibres can be washed in the machine with your usual detergent. If you have a synthetic or plastic reusable shopping bag, you’ll need to clean it with warm soapy water. Make sure you get under the creases in plastic bags as this is where the germs are. Whether your bag is synthetic or natural, you’ll still need to hang it out to dry. You should only use them again if they’re completely dry.
- 2. Only use your bags for food
It’s important to only use your bags for groceries and not also use them for things like carrying gym clothes or beach gear. If you use your bags for these items as well, you increase your risk of cross-contaminating your food.
- 3. Don’t use the same bag for vegetables and meats
It’s important to have a separate bag that you always use for frozen and raw meat, poultry and fish. You should also have a bag just for fruits and vegetables. This way there’s less risk of cross-contamination.
- 4. Use chiller bags for foods that need to be refrigerated
For foods that need refrigeration, you’ll need to get them in a fridge within two hours. You should also insulate your foods with chiller bags to stop them warming.
- 5. Keep surfaces clean
You should wipe down all areas where your reusable bags are placed, especially your kitchen counter or dining table. This will help to reduce the chance of harmful germs and bacteria contaminating your food. W
- 6. Store your bags in a clean and dry location
While it’s easy to leave your reusable bag in the car, or stash it at the bottom of a backpack, they’re actually some of the worst places to store them. This is because these areas of often dark and provide a good breeding ground for bacteria. It’s a better idea to store them in a clean and dry spot with good air flow. You could try hanging them on the back of a door.
- 7. Don’t store them in the baby seat of your shopping trolley
It’s definitely convenient to store your reusable bags in the baby seat of your shopping trolley as you push it around the supermarket, but it’s actually one of the most contaminated parts of the trolley.
Where to get more information
You can find out more about safe food practices and how to avoid food poisoning at the NSW Food Authority.