As an environmental choice, many Canadians are now shopping with reusable bins, plastic bags and cloth bags. Because these grocery bags and bins are reused frequently, they can pick up harmful bacteria from the foods they carry, or from their environment – the ground, the trunk of your car, or the items stored in them between grocery trips. These bacteria can also contaminate other foods or items in the bags/bins and put you at risk of food poisoning.
It is estimated that there are approximately 4 million cases (1 in 8 Canadians) of food-related illness in Canada every year. Many of these cases could be prevented by following proper food handling (and preparation) techniques.
What you should do
Lower the risk of cross-contamination and food poisoning by following these food safety tips.
- At home, clean the counters and tables where you place your bags or bins.
- Wash reusable bags and bins frequently – especially after carrying fresh produce, meat, poultry or fish.
- Cloth reusable bags should be washed in a washing machine using laundry detergent and dried in the dryer or air-dried. Some plastic reusable bags can be washed this way too – look to see if there are washing instructions for you to follow on the bag.
- If you are using plastic-lined reusable bags, you can scrub them using hot soapy water and air dry them. Check to make sure that both cloth and plastic-lined bags are completely dry before storing them or using them again.
- If your bags are not machine washable, wash them by hand with hot soapy water. Plastic bins should be washed regularly using hot soapy water as well. Dry your grocery bags and bins after washing them.
- To help reduce cross-contamination and keep yourself and your family safe from harmful bacteria, it is recommended that the bags or bins you use for groceries not be used for other purposes.
- If you store or carry non-food items in your grocery bags or bins, wash the bags and bins well before using them again for groceries.
Pack your groceries carefully
- Put fresh or frozen raw meat, poultry or fish in disposable plastic bags before packing them in a reusable bag or bin. (You can find these bags in the meat or produce sections of your store.) This will help prevent the juices from leaking and contaminating other foods and the reusable bags or bins.
- Throw away the disposable plastic bags that you used to store meat or poultry. Don’t use them again.
- Use separate bags or bins for fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry and ready-to-eat foods.
- Keep fresh or frozen raw meat, poultry and fish separate from fresh produce and other ready-to-eat foods by packing them in separate bags or bins.
Source: Healthy Canadians