Food Safety Tips for Reusable Grocery Bags and Bins
Using reusable grocery bags and bins is a good environmental choice for Canadians. In fact, with many grocery stores in Canada promoting the use of reusable grocery bags and bins, more and more Canadians are making the choice to carry reusable grocery bags while shopping. However, it's still important to use good food safety practices to avoid the risks of cross-contamination and foodborne illness.
Certain foods, such as raw meat, poultry and fish, may contain bacteria and other microbes that can cause foodborne illness. Re-usable bags and bins can pick up and accumulate bacteria from these foods, if appropriate measures are not taken. These bacteria may then be transferred to other foods or non-food items placed in these bags and bins, posing a risk of illness to you and your family.
It is particularly important to avoid cross contamination of fresh foods that you will not cook before eating.
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Here are some food safety tips that you can follow to help lower the risk of cross-contamination:
- When you are using cloth bags, make sure to wash them frequently, especially after carrying fresh produce, meat, poultry or fish. Some reusable grocery bags may not be machine washable. If you are using this type of grocery bag, you should make sure to frequently wash them inside out by hand with hot soapy water. Plastic bins should be washed using hot soapy water and/or sanitized with a mild bleach solution as described below on a regular basis. It is also important that you dry your grocery bags and bins after washing.
- Combine 5 mL (1 tsp) of bleach with 750 mL (3 cups) of water in a labelled spray bottle.
- Spray the bleach solution on the surface of the bin and let stand briefly.
- Rinse with lots of clean water and air dry (or use clean towels).
- If you notice that juices from your food have leaked into the bag or bin, make sure you wash them thoroughly before using them again.
- You should place fresh or frozen raw meat, poultry and fish in separate bins or bags from fresh produce and other ready to eat foods.
- You can also put your meat, poultry or fish in plastic bags, such as the clear bags you can find in the produce and some meat sections. This will help prevent the juices from leaking out and contaminating your reusable bags and bins and also other foods. Fresh produce should also always be placed in plastic bags to help protect them from contamination.
- If you are using your grocery bags or bins to store or transport non-food items, they should be thoroughly washed before using them for groceries.
- Always follow proper safe food handling and preparation techniques in your kitchen, whether or not you are using reusable grocery bags. The four key steps are: clean, separate, cook and chill.
- After putting your groceries away, clean the areas where you placed your bags or bins while unbagging your food, especially the kitchen counter and the kitchen table.
What the Government of Canada does to keep our food supply safe
The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.
Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of foods sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.
For more information on food safety, please visit the Government of Canada's Food Safety Portal and the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education's Be Food Safe Canada program.