Bag-for-life 'bug risk' advice

Raw chicken can harbour campylobacter Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Food safety experts are investigating how frequently the bug is found on packaging

Bags-for-life must be used carefully to reduce the risk of spreading any campylobacter bugs found on chicken packaging, food safety officials warn.

The Food Standards Agency says people should use reusable bags separately - reserving one solely for raw meat.

Surveys of supermarkets and smaller shops suggest the bug is sometimes found on the outside of packaging.

Though instances are rare, infections can cause serious diarrhoea and lead to 100 deaths each year.

Contaminated poultry

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year.

The bacteria are most frequently found on contaminated poultry but can be present on other meat.

Most people are ill for just a few days, but in some cases infections can be fatal - children under five and older people are at highest risk.

Food Standards Agency (FSA) tests this year suggest 59% of fresh shop-bought chickens could carry the bug.

And some 4% were found to harbour campylobacter on packaging.

Later this week, the agency plans to publish a list of supermarkets and smaller shops found to sell products with contaminated packaging and meat.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Chicken should be cooked until there is no pink meat

The FSA says: "It is extremely unlikely that someone could become ill from contact with raw poultry packaging alone.

"Our advice on packing raw meat and fish is pack raw meat and fish separately from ready-to-eat foods, in separate bags.

"If your bags are reusable, keep one or two to use just for raw meat and fish, and do not use them to carry ready-to-eat foods.

"Reusable bags and single-use carrier bags should be disposed of if there has been any spillage of raw meat juices, even if the bag looks clean."

The FSA is conducting a year-long survey of campylobacter contamination.

Chicken preparation advice

  • Cover and chill raw chicken
  • Store it at the bottom of the fridge to prevent juices dripping onto other foods
  • Keep raw food away from ready-to-eat foods
  • Don't wash raw chicken
  • Thoroughly wash all utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used
  • Use different chopping boards for raw and ready-to-eat foods
  • Cook chicken thoroughly - there should be no pink meat, and juices should run clear
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water before cooking, after touching raw food, after touching the bin and after going to the toilet.

Sources: Food Standards Agency and NHS Choices

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