The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is urging consumers to continue to shop for food with reusable “bags for life”, fearing that worries about the food poisoning risks could trigger a backlash and even a resurgence in the use of thin plastic bags.
The government’s food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), recently updated its guidance for consumers on how to pack their food shopping, saying that the sturdier reusable bags normally bought from supermarkets can spread deadly food poisoning bacteria if they are used to carry raw foods such as fish and meat.
That has raised the prospect of consumers having to pre-plan every food shopping trip like a military campaign, armed with a battery of different – and ideally colour-coded or labelled – bags to enable them to separate raw foods from ready-to-eat items and non-grocery items.
The CIEH has now waded into the row, urging consumers to stick with the bags for life while being cautious about which food stuffs are placed in which bag. Urging a “commonsense” approach by consumers, it fears a resurgence in the use of single-use and thin plastic bags following a significant (85%) decrease since the 5p charge was introduced in England in 2015.
“We must not cut down on our use of bags for life as a result of this warning from the Food Standards Agency,” said Tony Lewis, head of policy at the CIEH, which represents some 9,000 professionals in the public, private and non-profit sectors. “The excessive use and disposal of plastics in our country is a growing problem which affects all of us and deeply damages our environment. Bags for life are integral to efforts to tackle this.”
Shoppers should be mindful of what food they are putting in which bag, he added, “and not mixing raw food with things which are ready to eat straight away. By being aware of the need for good hygiene, people can quite easily avoid picking up any damaging bacteria from their bags for life.”