How to disinfect groceries is a question on a lot of people’s minds right now. Grocery shopping is no longer just a chore. Thanks to the pandemic, one of life’s most necessary tasks has become a worrisome and risky affair.
While grocery stores across Canada are adhering to guidelines regarding precautionary measures like hand sanitizers and enforcing physical distancing, some shoppers are equally worried about the dangers that await once they’ve brought their grocery haul home.
But so far, there’s no evidence to show that COVID-19 is transmitted through food, food packaging, or food containers.
What studies have proven is that particles of the virus can remain in the air for longer than three hours, and those particles can also live on surfaces like cardboard for less than a day, and three days or more on plastic or stainless steel.
While eating right out of the styrofoam takeout box might not be a great idea, it’s doesn’t necessarily mean you should be wiping down every OJ carton and stick of butter with bleach solution, either.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agree that, while contamination is possible on food packaging, the likelihood of you contracting COVID-19 from said packaging has yet to be proven.
“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” says the CDC.
“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”
Evidently, disinfecting your packaging is way less important than washing your hands, or physical distancing that ensures respiratory droplets — the primary culprit in community spread.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking precautionary measures, and it never hurts to give things an extra scrub, whether you’re buying groceries yourself or getting them delivered.
Rubbing down your kitchen counters and all other surfaces with water and soap, followed by a disinfectant, is also crucial, not just during the cooking process but also on the daily.
Consumer Reports suggests wiping down non-porous containers like glass or cans with disinfectant wipes, if you feel inclined, though it’s not entirely necessary.
They’re essentially the same steps you’d take to prevent food poisoning, with an emphasis on washing your hands before, during, and after every step of the post-grocery shopping process.
That includes after handling food packaging, after removing the food from its packaging, before you prepare your food, and again before you eat, all while following proper handwashing protocol.
Separating your raw meats and cooking them to the right temperatures is also a no-brainer.
For fresh fruit and vegetables, the best tip for handling is rubbing produce gently under running water before peeling. Avoid using hot water, since it might actually help bacteria spread. For firmer produce, you can use a clean veggie brush to scrub, and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.
You can also employ a technique commonly used to remove pesticide residue by adding baking soda to water and soaking your produce for about five minutes.
At the end of the day, the cleaning process should be nothing out of the ordinary if you’re already used to washing your fruits and veggies.
As health officials and experts around the world have said, and will continue to say, if nothing else, washing your hands should still be the most important task on your COVID-19 to-do list.