Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Why reusing your plastic bags could result in sickness

Food safety chiefs have warned that people are risking their health by reusing carrier bags that have held raw meat and fish.

A shopping habits survey for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Northern Ireland revealed 65% of consumers admitted not keeping a separate reusable shopping bag for raw meat and fish.

The number of people recycling plastic and paper bags has risen significantly since the carrier bag levy was introduced in Northern Ireland three months ago.

But as raw meat can contain germs that cause salmonella, E.coli and campylobacter, the FSA has urged people not to let bad "shopping habits give them food poisoning".

Around 96% of 1,003 people surveyed by YouGov earlier this month said they have used reusable bags for food shopping since Stormont brought the bag levy in.

Of those, 82% said that they do separate fresh raw meat and fish from other ready-to-eat foods such as butter, bread, salads and cooked meats.

But only 35% of people who do this keep a separate reusable bag that they only use for fresh raw meat and fish items.

Michael Jackson, head of food safety at FSA in Northern Ireland, said: "Packing raw meat and fish with ready-to-eat foods can lead to spreading germs which can cause food poisoning, especially if there are any spillages or leaks from the raw meat packaging.

"While a carrier bag may look clean, there is always the potential for these germs to spread on to food which is ready to eat.

"That's why it's a good idea to have separate, identifiable bags for raw and ready-to eat-foods."

FACTFILE

As temperatures soar, so have sales of meat and fish as Northern Ireland goes barmy for barbecues. Traditionally the number of food poisoning cases doubles over the summer. To help prevent germs from spreading in carrier bags, consumers need to remember:

e Pack raw meat and fish separately from food that's ready to eat

e Keep a bag and use it only for raw meat and fish

e Bin the bag if there's been spillage of raw meat juices

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