Tips for Grocery Shopping During COVID-19

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Grocery shopping from stores during the COVID-19 pandemic can be risky because you not only encounter other people, but you may also get exposed to a variety of infected surfaces. However, if you are taking enough safety measures to protect yourself before, during, and after grocery shopping, you can reduce the risk by a significant degree.

It is important to note that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “currently there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.” Therefore, ingesting the foods themselves will not result in the transmission of COVID-19, but the handling of the food might.

Below are a few important tips to help you grocery shop safely during this pandemic.

Before/During Grocery shopping:

 1. Plan in Advance:

Make a list of all required items so you do not have to spend more time in the store. Stock the items for at least 2 weeks so that you do not have to visit the store frequently. Avoid peak hours of the day when planning your trip.

2. Stay home if you are sick or have serious medical conditions:

If you have a cough, fever, or any other symptoms, stay home to prevent transmission to others. As noted by CDC, people with chronic conditions and those who are immunocompromised are particularly vulnerable to this virus. So please avoid being the one to do grocery shopping for your family if you have any risk factors.

3. Use a virtual payment system:

Use any virtual payment systems like Apple pay, Google Pay, or Samsung pay instead of paying with cash to avoid contact. Particles can also stay on your credit cards for a significant period.

4. Shop for our seniors:

As per CDC website, “older adults may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.” So senior citizens must avoid going out for groceries during this pandemic. Ask a friend or neighbour to do the shopping for you. Some grocery stores offer special hours for older adults, reach out to your nearest grocery stores to find out!

 5. Keep disinfectant spray or disposable wipes handy:

Disinfect the cart handles and baskets before touching it. The virus can be easily killed with common household disinfectants.

6. Maintain social distancing during shopping:

Try your best maintain a distance of 6 ft from all other shoppers to prevent transmission.

7. Use basic preventive techniques:

Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Avoid being in contact with frequently touched surfaces. Touch only the things that you intend to buy.

8. Wear cloth face masks when shopping:

CDC recommends wearing cloth face masks. According to the CDC website, “cloth face coverings may prevent people who do not know they have the virus from transmitting it to others.” However, it is also important to note that these face masks are not surgical masks and therefore do not provide 100% protection from the virus.

9. Online shopping and home deliveries:

Dr Jaime Meyer, MD, an Infectious Diseases doctor from the Yale School of Medicine, suggests that online ordering and delivery may be a better option than going in-person to purchase groceries.

Many stores including Amazon, Instacart, FreshDirect, and more deliver groceries to your home. Reach out your nearest grocery stores if they are providing online ordering and delivery or contactless pick-up options. If ordering online, opt for contactless deliveries as much as possible.

Also, do not forget to tip to the delivery person because they are risking their health to provide you these essential services. Pay the tip online to avoid contact.

After purchasing the grocery:

10. Leave your groceries out for 24-72 hours

As per an article by Dr. Angel N. Desai, & Dr. David M. Aronoff on the JAMA Network, this virus may “remain infectious on surfaces or objects for up to 72 hours, but the most virus on the surface of common materials becomes inactive (non-infectious) after the first 24 hours. There is limited evidence that virus particles on those products transmit disease. Virus on the surface of groceries will become inactivated overtime after groceries are put away.” Therefore, you have the option of leaving out your groceries in an area in your kitchen for a period of time before putting them on the shelves to ensure that they are virus-free.

11. Disinfect the groceries

As per the above article, “the inner contents of sealed containers are unlikely to be contaminated.”  If you would like to be extra careful, you can disinfect the outer surface before using them.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, a family physician in Michigan, suggests that individuals set up a sanitation station somewhere in your home so that you don’t contaminate other surfaces in your house. Divide the area into 2 parts with masking tape. Dump your grocery items in your unsensitized area and then disinfect all the items one by one before putting them on shelves.

 12. After putting the groceries away, disinfect surfaces:

Clean your counter surfaces thoroughly with disinfectant after you put away your groceries.

13. Do not use reusable cloth bags

Disposable plastic bags should be used and disposed of as soon as you come home. If you use reusable cloth bags, wash them in your washing machine immediately after use or disinfect them thoroughly.

14. Remember to remove packaging

For the packaged items, remove the items from any plastic packaging and dispose of it right away. Take the items and them place them in reusable plastic boxes or wrap them in pieces of cloth. If you can not remove the outside packaging, please disinfect the outer surface of the packet or container.

Although not directly related to grocery shopping, note that this also applies to takeout food! Please remove all the food from its original packaging and dispose of it as soon as you bring it home.

15. Rinse the produce

Fruits and vegetables should be rinsed thoroughly before being used! You may also choose to scrub the fruits with fruit scrubber.

16. Store food correctly

It is NOT recommended that you store groceries outside of the home, in cars or garages. This will result in further spread of the virus particles while resulting in your food going bad.

17. Finish by washing your hands!

At the end of all of these steps, please remember to wash your hands! You should use hand sanitizer when you come back from the grocery store and get in your car. And when you get home and finish putting away all of the groceries, wash your hands with soap and water!

Parting Thoughts:

Although according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration state that currently there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. That being said, it is likely associated with transmission because this virus can survive on surfaces for several days.

The best step we can take is to wash our hands after handling food packaging, after removing food from the packaging, before we prepare food and before we eat. We recommend that everyone follows the CDC guidelines on frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Please follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill.

Make sure that you do your grocery shopping safely and within the social distancing guidelines.

There are conflicting views regarding whether you need to disinfect each product that you buy or not but if you are really worried about possible contamination of your food items, there is no harm in being more cautious and taking the appropriate preventative measures.

Remember to clean and disinfect your countertops properly. Wash your fruits and vegetables carefully before consuming them but do not use soap water to clean your fruits and vegetables.

Follow the food safety guidelines from your local health authorities. Stay home if is not essential for you to go out. If you have problems convincing your loved ones then visit our blog – how to convince others to engage in social distancing.

Note that the information in this blog post is not a substitute for consultation from medical experts. We recommend your consult a physician with any questions!

Stay home & stay safe!

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