Health Bytes: Don’t Let the “Bag Ban” Bite You!

As of January 1st of 2020, single-use plastic bags were no longer allowed in Oregon due to the passing House Bill 2509 by the House and Senate.

If you get to a store without reusable bags, you can plan to spend a minimum of 5 cents per bag. This new ban begs the question, which are the best bags to bring in and does it affect Oregonian’s health?

This change directly affects the consumer’s health. Consumers have already been made aware that grocery stores can be Petri dishes of bacteria. A grocery store cart carries more bacteria than a bathroom doorknob according to ReuseThisBag.com (https://www.reusethisbag.com/grocery-cart-germs/).

That is why there will still be the thin plastic bags available for produce and meats to be stored in. Yet, with the introduction of reusable bags that come from people’s homes, cars, RVs and more, you will need to heed a few warnings.

Here are some tips to ensure that your next grocery shopping experience is a healthy one.

Tips:

-When selecting bags to bring from home, make sure that they are washable and made for multiple uses. You might think it is a good idea to just bring the paper bags back for your next visit, but if items have spilled or the bag is degraded, this can pose a risk and is likely not even allowed. You will also need to wash out your reusable bags after every use.

-Keep reusable bags in a compartment or dry area of your car so that not only are they easily remembered, but they are being kept as sanitary as possible. You do not want to introduce foreign substances from your car into the store where food is easily affected. Keeping them in the trunk of your car is a no-no because it can incubate bag bacteria. It is darker and likely more humid in the trunk especially in the warmer months.

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-Use sanitizing wipes to clean the grocery cart and to clean your hands after picking up produce items like peppers and bananas. Think of how many hands have touched the items that you might inadvertently transport out of the store. Be mindful of everyone’s health. If you are in doubt, use extra caution and resist the urge to eat the piece of pizza from the front of Winco until you have thoroughly washed your hands.

-If you are at a store where you will be doing the bagging, remember to separate foods. Raw meats, poultry, and fish need to be bagged away from other foods. Use one or two specific reusable bags for these items. If you have a lot of these items and will be traveling a distance by foot or car, keep a lined, insulated bag or two available for just these items. You do not want them heating up as you travel back to your destination.

-Reserve your lightweight cloth bags that can be kept in a purse for non-food items like beauty products or medicines. It is not recommended to use these for produce or raw meats. The cloth does not provide a good barrier and can encourage cross-contamination. And who knows what can live in a purse and for how long!

Help keep your trip to the grocery store not a trip to the doctor or emergency room! If you would like more information on foodborne illnesses, please check out this publication from the Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5002a1.htm or this one from American Family Physician: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2015/0901/p358.html.

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