Some TikTok tips are insanely useful while others never should have made it onto the internet in the first place. The latest bit of advice to go viral, sucking the air out of a Ziploc bag to give it an “airtight” seal, falls somewhere in the middle.
The trick itself has been around for a long time. As far back as 2016, Good Housekeeping was recommending it to readers as a way to keep food fresher inside its storage bag by removing as much air as possible. On the surface, this looks like the type of trick you could praise as a #FoodHack, but I wouldn’t jump the gun on that one. There are a few issues with “[becoming your] own vacuum-sealer,” as TikTok user @daveed_chet puts it.
Listen, I’m sure you’re a very hygienic person, and I’m sure your breath is minty fresh. Unfortunately, no matter how often you brush and floss, there’s bound to be some bacteria that escapes the confines of your mouth.
If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that a lot of stuff comes out of your mouth when you breathe out. So, just imagine billions of bacteria (some harmful, some not) mingling with your food and getting sealed up with it, unable to escape. Yes, I know that sucking the air out of something is the exact opposite of breathing out, but some amount of carbon dioxide will pass through your lips, even just for an instant.
It’s sort of like sharing a drink with someone. Unless you waterfall it, you’re bound to get a little backwash when you’re drinking from the same glass. It’s just inevitable.
On the flipside of possibly getting people sick by exhaling diseases onto food, there’s also the possibility of getting yourself sick by inhaling certain bacteria coming off raw, uncooked foods.
Inhaling raw meat fumes can cause Brucellosis, which is an infectious disease caused by a specific bacteria most often found in animal products like dairy and meat. Brucellosis comes with symptoms such as fever and headaches as well as potential long-term effects like arthritis and swelling of the liver and spleen. Although the CDC found the risk to be higher for people who work in laboratories with the bacteria, it was also a risk for people who work in slaughterhouses and who handle raw meat.
Sure, sucking air out of a plastic bag is not the same as working in a slaughterhouse, but directly inhaling the air concentrated around raw meat is going to put you at some amount of risk. It may seem obvious, but if you’re going to try this particular food “hack,” only do it with fully cooked dishes and not things that could be harmful if consumed raw, like chicken.
If you’re absolutely married to the idea of this vacuum-sealing trick, a better alternative might be to use a straw in place of putting your whole mouth to the bag. That way, there’s at least some distance between you and the food in the bag, and you’ll still get to try something you saw on TikTok. (But remember, not all TikTok hacks are worth the fallout.)