directly into my pannier, or ask for a paper bag. I had not used dedicated reusable shopping bags till now. The Urbana bike I am testing supplied a couple to go with its rear rack, so I decided to give it a try.
My experience at the grocery store was interesting. This was a "normal" grocery store, not an organic or whole foods one. I bought a few things, among which were a couple of loose apples and a packet of raw meat. The cashier rang me up and asked whether I wanted paper or plastic. I replied that I had my own bag, and began putting the groceries in it. The cashier then started helping me by taking the apples and reaching for a plastic bag. Seeing her do this, I said, "No thanks, I'm just going to put them directly into my bag." She replied, "But they're loose. Let me put them in a plastic bag first." I assured her that I preferred to place them in my bag as they were, and reluctantly she relinquished the apples. But then we moved on to the meat. Again, she tried to put the already packaged meat into a plastic bag and I resisted. She then warned me that carrying produce in reusable bags will make me sick because of the bacteria. I pointed to a stack of reusable bags by the register with the grocery store's logo on them. "But you sell these yourself; don't you expect customers to use them?" To which she replied that customers use them, but first they'll put items like meat and vegetables into individual plastic bags. And just as she was saying this, I saw a customer at the next register doing exactly that - placing groceries that were already in individual plastic bags, into a larger reusable bag that they extracted from their coat pocket.
It surprised me to encounter resistance from the cashier with respect to the reusable bag. I've experienced milder versions of it when putting food directly into my pannier, but never to this extent - perhaps because I keep the pannier below the cash register making what I am doing less noticeable. Now I wonder whether most people using reusable bags are in fact putting their food into plastic bags first for fear of bacteria. Maybe I am missing something here, but does that not defeat the purpose?..
I know that many of you like reusable grocery bags. How do you carry loose fruit, vegetables and packets of meat? Do you wash the bags? What do you make of the "bacteria" debate?