Health Canada is reminding Canadians to take steps to prevent
cross-contamination of foods when shopping with reusable grocery bags and
As an environmental choice, many Canadians are now shopping with reusable
bins, plastic bags and cloth bags to reduce the amount of plastic they are
using. Health Canada supports the proper use of these products, but it is
important to use them safely to prevent cross-contamination of food with
bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
Because these bags and bins are reused frequently, they can pick up bacteria
from the foods they carry, or from their environment (the ground, the back of
your car or the items stored in them between grocery trips).
The following steps can help to prevent cross-contamination:
- Wash cloth bags frequently, especially after carrying fresh produce, meat,
poultry or fish. Reusable grocery bags may not all be machine washable. If yours
are not, you should wash them by hand frequently with hot soapy water. Plastic
bins should be washed using hot soapy water on a regular basis as well. It is
also important to dry grocery bags and bins after washing.
- Put fresh or frozen raw meat, poultry and fish in separate bins or bags from
fresh produce and other ready-to-eat foods.
- Putting your fresh or frozen raw meat, poultry or fish in plastic bags (the
clear bags found in the produce and some meat sections work well) will help to
prevent the juices from leaking and contaminating your reusable containers and
other foods. Fresh produce should also be put in plastic bags to help protect it
- If you are using your grocery bags or bins to store or transport non-food
items, they should be washed thoroughly before using them for
It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related
illness in Canada every year. Many of these cases could be prevented by
following proper food handling and preparation techniques.