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‘Reusable carrier bags could present a food poisoning risk’6th of November 2013
Supermarket "bags for life" may present a food poisoning risk according to leading bacteriologists.
Foodborne diseases expert Professor Kofi Aidoo says reusable plastic bags would "have to be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis to avoid the risk of food poisoning".
"Vegetables that come into contact with the inside of the bags could easily be contaminated," said Aidoo. And adding that many shoppers store bags in their car boots, he says: "The warm environment of cars make them the worst place as far as bacteria is concerned. One bacteria cell will quickly become thousands.
"If people are going to have to pay for bags and re-use them, my concern is we're creating a high risk of food poisoning. At the very least people have to be given advice to clean these bags every time they use them."
But bacteriology professor Hugh Pennington believes that cleaning or sanitising a bag that had been used to carry raw meat would be ineffective. "You can't be certain you've got rid of all the bugs," he said. "I would recommend disposing of any bag that has had raw meat inside it." He says problems could arise if bacteria were to be transferred from the meat to the bag, and then on to other products.
"Meats should be separated from the rest of shopping - particularly from unwrapped items that will be eaten raw," he said. "Raw meats should not be placed in hessian or cotton bags either, even if they are wrapped, because the outside of their packages carry bacteria." However, he adds that packaged items such as boxes of cereal and jars of jam can be transported safely in reusable bags whether these are made from plastic, hessian or cotton.