PLATTSBURGH — Grocery shopping is risky business during these unprecedented times.
But an ounce of common sense will go a long way to keep you and your loved ones Coronavirus-free.
First, view going grocery shopping as a special op.
Do do not attempt without the proper equipment and that means wear a mask, gloves, and take at least 2 Clorox wipes, one for the cart handle and seat where you place your bags, and another one for the checkout pad.
In “Grocery Shopping Tips,” Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, a Michigan family practice physician, offers these tips in his video:
1. Wipe down cart.
2. Commit to what you are buying.
3. Don't shop if you have respiratory symptoms, respiratory illness or have been exposed.
4. Don't allow loved ones over 60 to go to the supermarket.
5. Plan what you will buy for at least two weeks of food to reduce minimize exposure.
While shopping, remember to keep your social-distancing no closer than 6 feet from the next person as possible.
Once you leave the store, throw away gloves and sanitize your hands before you touch your door handle and enter your car.
If possible, do not bring your groceries straight into the house.
Consider holding nonperishable items in your garage, breezeway, porch or car for three days.
If you are bringing the groceries inside your kitchen, VanWingen advises people to prepare a table or counter to receive groceries items by sanitizing it with a standard disinfectant and divide the table or counter space into a “dirty side” and “clean side.”
This sterile technique is one physicians practice for infection prevention for their patients.
Place grocery bags on the dirty side, then precede to disinfect every item pulled out of the bag.
Even prescription bottles should be wiped off with a disinfectant wipe or a paper towel saturated with disinfectant.
Cereal can be easily removed from the cardboard box, and the box discarded.
Plastic packing for vegetables should be wiped off thoroughly.
Bread, rolls, muffins, etc. can be dumped into a clean plastic or glass container and stored.
If the food item is encased in thick packaging, it can simply be sprayed or wiped down with a disinfectant.
Snack bags such as potato chips should be wiped down.
Fruit is dumped in warm, soapy water, and each fruit is washed for 20 seconds just like your hands.
Afterward, rinse with water, let dry and place in a clean storage container.
When eating take-out, VanWingen advocates the same sterile technique.
Take-out bags should be placed on a “dirty side” and the contents in the wrappers or containers be dumped onto clean plates on a sterile side.
He also advocates purchasing only "hot food" at this time, and microwaving the food that you eat, which has been vetted to kill other species of coronaviruses.
“In these unprecedented times, safety in the marketplace can literally save lives,” VanWingen said.
See video at: https://youtu.be/sjDuwc9KBps
MORE FOOD SAFETY
Wash nonporous containers.
The FDA says there's no current evidence to support the transmission of the virus from food packaging. But if you're concerned, it can't hurt to wipe down non-porous containers like glass or cans with disinfectant wipes.
If that's not practical, wash your hands well after putting away all packaging, including paper boxes and bags.
"It all comes down to hand hygiene," says Liz Garman, a spokesperson for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology in Arlington, Va.
It also doesn't hurt to wash your hands after opening the containers and using their contents.
"But if you use a pasta box a few days after you get it, there is little likelihood that the virus could still be live on the box and cause an infection," says Eike Steinmann, a virologist at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany who has studied how long viruses live on different surfaces.
One preliminary study found that the coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic doesn't survive on cardboard longer than 24 hours.
Results of the study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and other experts, were published on March 17 in a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Wash your hands, counter, and other surfaces you’ve touched. Do this after you've put away the groceries. Keep in mind that using a disinfectant isn’t necessary unless you’re sharing a space with someone who is exhibiting signs of respiratory illness or has been exposed to the virus.
Wash produce. Rubbing fruit and vegetables under running water—and scrubbing those with hard skins—can help remove pesticides.
But Rogers says there's no data to show that COVID-19 is spread by consuming food.
"The risk of getting the virus from your food is considered low," he says.
Other steps may not make much difference. For instance, buying frozen vegetables rather than fresh under the assumption that they’re packed in a more sanitary way is not an approach that has been backed up by evidence, says Rogers.
If You’re Getting Your Groceries Delivered
Even if a grocery store or warehouse is thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis, the delivery person needs to take the same precautions to prevent the spread of a virus to you.