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‘Bags for life’ could carry deadly bugs

Bags for life can spread deadly bacteria if they are re-used for both raw and ‘ready to eat’ food, watchdogs have warned.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) advises shoppers to use separate bags to carry their meat to avoid food poisoning. It said they should be colour-coded.

Even the outside of raw meat packaging can be contaminated with dangerous bugs that can easily spread onto other foods.

Fabric bags for life should be washed regularly to kill any dangerous bacteria which may be lurking inside, the FSA recommends.

It also says plastic ones should be replaced when they show signs of wear and tear.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) advises shoppers to use separate bags to carry their meat to avoid food poisoning. It said they should be colour-coded

What does the FSA advise? 

‘Ideally, you should have enough bags to carry raw foods, ready-to-eat foods and non-food items such as washing powder separately,’ the FSA advises.

‘Keep enough bags for life for raw foods only and don’t use the same bags again for ready-to-eat foods or for carrying other household items.

‘If it [the bag] doesn’t have a label, you could either colour code the bags or mark on the bags to help you keep raw items separate.’

The bugs they could carry 

It is understood about seven per cent of chicken packaging carries campylobacter, the UK’s most common cause of food poisoning, on the outside.

Campylobacter poisoning, which causes diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, affects 280,000 people a year.


The FSA is investigating the 2 Sisters Food Group – the biggest supplier of fresh chicken to UK supermarkets – after undercover filming revealed alleged poor hygiene practices last week.

But the watchdog will no longer test supermarket chickens for campylobacter.

It insisted that supermarkets and their suppliers had made significant progress in taking action to reduce levels in their products.

Other harmful bugs that can be found in chicken include salmonella and E.coli, of which both can prove deadly.

Slashed usage 

Since the 5p carrier bag charge was introduced in October 2015, the number of bags used at the UK’s biggest retailers has fallen by more than 85 per cent.

FSA chairman Heather Hancock, wrote to supermarkets earlier this year about the dangers of re-using 5p bags spreading dangerous bugs.

She urged supermarkets to hand shoppers free disposable bags when buying raw chicken, and called for special reminders to use them to be placed at checkouts.  

When do bags for life become good for the environment? 

The advice comes after a study in March found that reusable shopping bags are only beneficial to the environment if they are used at least 104 times.

This is because thicker plastic bags, or bags made from a plastic-type material, require more energy and resources to produce than regular bags.

In order to offset this, the bags must be used at least twice a week for a year in order for the benefits to kick in, found scientists at RMIT University, Melbourne. 

Other benefits of the bags… 

And in the same month it was also revealed that shoppers who buy bags for life are less likely to have road accidents.

Data collected by Sainsbury’s showed that customers who use eco-friendly carriers tend to be conscientious, loyal and plan ahead – which implies they are safe drivers.