COVID-19 FAQ’s: Do I Need To Wash Or Sanitise My Groceries?

With the Movement Control Order conditions imposed here in Malaysia, the majority of the nation’s daily routines have come to halt with activities such as food shopping being kept to a bare minimum.

Some of the greatest open concerns surrounding the novel of coronavirus so far have been related to supermarkets—from whether basic food supplies and household items will stay in great stock to how to remain safe while we shop.

Supermarkets are famously bustling spots that are loaded up with items touched by various people and while retailers are doing their best to employ measures to assist customers keep their distance from one another, customers are left wondering what the danger of exposure to the infection is while doing their shopping. 

Here is everything you need to know about grocery shopping amid the outbreak:

How big of a risk are groceries?

Charlotte Baker, DrPH, MPH, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia, said your biggest risk at the supermarket is coming into close contact with another person who’s sick.

That’s why it’s important to stay at least 6 feet from other people at all times. “Do not be afraid to ask others to step back if they are too close to you in line,” said Baker. “Or wait a few moments to grab something if others are already by the item you want.” (Source: Healthline). 

Touch just the items you intend to buy, wipe down the cart or basket handles with disinfectant wipes, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when you’re done

The World Health Organization Trusted Source says that in addition to close person-to-person contact, people can pick up the virus by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.

(Source: Unsplash)

Do I need to wash fruit and vegetables with soap?

1-million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, not a single one has come from contaminated food. 

Jodi Koberinski, a food safety researcher at the University of Waterloo, agrees, noting that dish soap is likely to cause more problems than it solves including nausea, diarrhea, and cramping. “It is not made for and not safe for human consumption,” she explains. 

Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended

In addition to that, fruits and vegetables are porous and may absorb harmful chemicals that won’t come out with even the most rigorous rinse. For items with tough skin (avocados, potatoes) you can also use a scrub brush. It’s okay to wash that with soap. Same goes for your hands before and after you handle food of any kind. 

How about food with packaging? 

Despite the low risk of contamination, if you feel particularly anxious about the possibility of the virus spreading on food packaging you can use antibacterial wipes or disinfectant spray before storing them away in your cupboards or fridge.

(Source: Unsplash)

Professor Sally Bloomfield from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, explained that if people are concerned they can either store products for 72 hours before using them or “spray and wipe plastic or glass containers with bleach [that is carefully diluted as directed on the bottle]”.

It is also important  to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water as soon as you get home and after handling any packaging.

(Source: Unsplash)

How safe are home deliveries?

A home delivery is considered to be less risky than a trip to a supermarket as you will avoid coming into contact with other shoppers. Related article: 6 Online Stores That Will Deliver During The MCO

A number of supermarkets are now also offering contactless deliveries—meaning your shopping is left in a safe place, such as a porch, for you to collect once the driver has left. If this is not an option, Stephen Baker, a professor from the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge says it is important to remember social distancing when receiving the delivery by maintaining a distance of two metres between yourself and the driver.