In the wake of shelter-in-place orders, grocery stores — considered essential businesses — are now among the few places shoppers can go to stock their pantries. But empty shelves and large gatherings of people are also a major issue of concern for shoppers and health officials alike.
What precautions should I take while grocery shopping?
New research suggests that while the virus can survive on cardboard for a day and on plastic for several days, it becomes less infectious over time.
“It’s not to say that the risk of [contracting it at] the grocery store is zero, it's just the risk of getting something from groceries themselves is relatively low,” says Dr. Anne Liu, an immunologist at Stanford Health Care. “The main places to be worried about are places where people get together and crowd, or surfaces that a lot of people touch.”
Rather than worrying about touching a can of beans or a tomato, Liu says, pay attention instead to your proximity to other people, especially if they’re showing symptoms, because that is the main way the virus is transmitted.
According to the World Health Organization, people who have contracted COVID-19 can spread it by touching their faces and other surfaces, so washing hands thoroughly before and after grocery shopping is crucial.
Liu recommends wiping down grocery cart handles and using hand sanitizer after using credit card machines. If you are worried about your grocery items, she recommends wiping them down with food-safe wipes or produce wash.
What precautions should I take with food I purchase to prevent contracting the coronavirus?
The Food and Drug Administration is reassuring consumers that there’s no evidence of coronavirus transmission through food or food packaging, but for those concerned, you can find some tips on handling groceries here.
Produce should always be washed, even when there's not a pandemic, says Ronald Fong, CEO of the California Grocers Association. But now more than ever, he says, it is critical to wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after preparing fresh produce.