Reusable bags and containers

Advice on using reusable shopping bags and containers

Reusable shopping bags

There are different varieties of the standard re-usable bag, often called ‘bags for life’:

  • plastic  
  • fabric
  • a combination of plastic and fabric
  • cool bags can be used to carry cold items

With more consumers likely to be using re-usable shopping bags, whether for environmental reasons or to avoid paying for new ones, the following advice and tips will help to keep you and your family safe:

  • When using reusable bags, always pack raw foods (meat, fish, shellfish, eggs and soiled loose vegetables) in separate bags from other foods.
  • Keep one or two bags specifically for raw foods only and don’t use the same bags again for ready-to-eat foods. Even if a carrier bag looks clean, if it’s been used for raw meat, there may be bacteria present which could transfer to fresh produce or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Check your bags for spillages (for example raw meat juices or soil) after every use.

If there has been spillage, soiling or damage, plastic-based re-usable bags or single-use plastic carrier bags should ideally be disposed of. Cotton fabric-based ‘bags for life’ can be laundered on a hot wash using cleaning detergent.


  • On your weekly shop separate raw and ready-to-eat foods on the checkout conveyor belt. This will make it easier for you to keep them apart when you pack them into your bags.
  • You could colour code or mark your re-usable bags so you know which ones are intended for which foodstuffs.
  • You might choose to purchase a cotton fabric re-usable bag specifically for carrying raw meat given that it can be laundered regularly. This will ensure that any contamination, such as the spillage of meat juice, is removed.

Reusable containers

It is becoming common practice for shoppers to want to re-use their plastic tubs and containers to transport and store their food. For example for meat, deli products, loose fresh produce and dry ingredients like pulses.  This is a great way to care for our environment but be mindful to reuse containers in a safe way by following the below advice:

  • After use wash thoroughly in warm soapy water and dry thoroughly
  • Have separate and clearly labelled containers for raw meat, fresh produce and ready to eat foods
  • Containers should have a sealable lid for raw foods to avoid leakage and spread of bacteria
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