Taking reusable bags to the grocery store may be eco-friendly, but experts are saying they can spread deadly bacteria if they’re used to carry raw fish and meat. The Guardian reports that the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) is recommending that shoppers use separate bags to carry raw foods and ready-to-eat or non-food items in order to avoid cross-contamination from bacteria.
“Raw foods (raw meat, raw fish and shellfish, loose vegetables with soil on, and eggs) can contain germs or have germs on their surface that causes food poisoning,” the FSA’s website says. “Even wrapped raw foods such as pre-packed fresh chicken, fish, etc. may have traces of harmful bugs on the outside of the packaging.”
The FSA claims it’s possible for fatal bacteria — such as E. coli and campylobacter — to transfer from the outside of food packaging to the reusable bag, and then transfer back to future store-bought products, even when there’s no trace of leakage. If there are any obvious signs of spillage, plastic bags should be replaced and cotton bags should be machine washed. The FSA suggests that shoppers label or color-code reusable bags to help keep raw meats and fish away from other products.
As long as consumers are careful of cross-contamination, it should still be OK to shop with reusable bags. For another way to stay eco-friendly, get hydrated with one of the 10 best reusable water bottles.