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PORTLAND -- Starting Saturday, Portland's citywide ban on plastic bags at checkout stands takes effect.

With the larger retailers in Portland no longer able to provide customers with the traditional plastic checkout bags, shoppers are being encouraged to bring reusable bags instead.

The Oregon Health Authority agrees reusable bags are the best choice for the environment. But the agency encourages people who use those bags to keep in mind the potential for cross-contamination, which can lead to food borne illnesses.

For example, if meat juices leak into a bag and then that bag is reused for fresh fruits or veggies, there s a chance the produce could be contaminated.

State epidemiologist Katrina Hedberg said it comes down to safe food handling.

Err on the side of caution. People should either have separate bags or make sure the bag they use to carry the meat is cleaned thoroughly before they put vegetables in it, she said.

Hedberg also recommends shoppers wrap their produce and meats in the plastic bags offered in those departments.

The ban does not include those bags, just the ones used at the checkout stand.

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