Northern Ireland

Health warning over reusable plastic bags

Man carrying shopping bags
Image caption Shoppers are warned about the dangers of reusable bags

Northern Ireland shoppers are risking their health when packing their food in reusable bags, a survey has indicated.

Sixty-five per cent of the 1,000 people questioned admitted not keeping a separate bag for raw meat and fish.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said this put them at risk of food poisoning.

The FSA said the number of food poisoning cases usually doubles over the summer and has warned of the dangers of spillages and leaks.

Almost all of those who took part in the survey (96%) said they had used reusable bags for food shopping, since the carrier bag levy was introduced in Northern Ireland in April this year.

Of those people, 82% said that they do separate fresh raw meat and fish from other ready-to-eat foods.

However, only 35% of those respondents who do this keep a separate reusable bag solely for fresh raw meat and fish items.

Potential

Michael Jackson of the FSA 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 onto 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."

Raw meat can contain germs that cause food poisoning, such as salmonella, E.coli and campylobacter.

The FSA said to help prevent germs from spreading in carrier bags, shoppers should pack raw meat and fish separately from food that's ready to eat; keep a bag for raw meat and fish but dispose of the bag if there has been any spillage of raw meat juices.

Plastic bags in Northern Ireland cost five pence from April 2013.

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