There was a time when handing over a reusable coffee cup was considered a bit odd. I would hesitantly ask “Is it okay to use my cup?” as I ordered my latte. I was never refused and now thankfully it is pretty common place and plenty of cafes offer incentives for bringing your own cup!
I have an Onya Life reusable bread bag that has been awesome at eliminating a source of soft plastic, and those bread tags that seem to disappear the first time you open the loaf. I have been using it consistently over the past year at lots of different locations.
Last week I was at a well-known bakery chain, ordered my loaf (wholemeal, sliced toast if you’re interested!) and handed over my reusable bread bag. Plot twist – the sales assistant informed me she wasn’t allowed to take my bag to her side of the counter. Instead she sliced the loaf and returned it to the countertop, holding the now unstable, Jenga-like loaf together at either end with bits of tissue paper while I, very awkwardly, tried to shimmy my bag down it! All the while holding up customers and watching crumbs fly everywhere while wishing I’d not brought my bag at all!
As my flushed cheeks recovered from this encounter, I wondered where on earth this policy had come from — I mean, she quite happily proceeded to handle my debit card which I could guarantee gets exposed to more potential germs than my bread bag!
Feelings of embarrassment are not pleasant and can deter people from even attempting to BYO containers! Many shops love to claim food safety legislation as a reason to refuse. However, if you are ever met with the line “We don’t allow BYO containers because of food safety reasons,” you can know this is actually a business decision, not one enforced by any kind of health code.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) confirms that none of the food safety laws in Australia prevent retailers from letting customers use their own containers.
“There are no requirements in the Food Standards Code regarding people bringing their own containers to purchase food from supermarkets, cafes etc.,” says FSANZ spokesperson Aimee Griffith.
“It is up to the retailer to determine the measures they put in place to ensure food is safe and suitable.”
Coles and Woolworths have a blanket ban on any reusable containers being used in the deli section, so save yourself an awkward encounter by not even trying there. IGA supermarkets have left it up to individual stores to decide if they will accept the containers.
Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that smaller retailers are much more accepting of people bringing in their own containers, which is even more reason to ditch the big guys where you can!