AMES, Iowa – Best practices while grocery shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic is a hot topic in the media, note food safety and nutrition and wellness specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Angela Shaw, Anirudh Naig and Shannon Coleman want Iowans to know some key considerations to safely shop for groceries and stay well.
Shaw is a food safety state specialist and associate professor in the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Naig is a food safety state specialist and associate professor in the ISU Department of Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management. Coleman is an assistant professor and nutrition and wellness state specialist in the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. The specialists answer the following questions.
Can I get sick with COVID-19 from touching food or food packaging if the coronavirus was present on it?
- According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.
- Like other viruses, the COVID-19 virus seeks a living host, preferring humans, to survive and thus COVID-19 does not survive long periods of time (more than a day) on surfaces or objects such as door handles and stainless-steel tables.
What steps can I take to minimize risk when shopping at the grocery store?
- Prepare a list of the items you need at the store to minimize the amount of time within the store.
- Shop during hours that will be less busy, such as early in the morning and later at night.
- Before heading for the store, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Do not go shopping when showing symptoms or if you think you have been exposed to the virus.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of cloth face masks when shopping in grocery stores where social distancing is not possible. CDC states that “cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.”
- Use pick-up or home delivery options with local stores.
- Sanitize your shopping cart and basket handles before and after use. Grocery stores should have sanitization wipes near the entrance of the store.
- Maintain social distancing of 6 feet as much as possible while shopping.
- Use your eyes and not your hands. Avoid touching surfaces or items unnecessarily. For example, avoid touching or picking up produce and then placing it back on the shelf.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or face.
- Use self-check lines instead of a cashier. This minimizes the person-to-person interaction, and machines are cleaned regularly.
- Avoid using cash and opt to use a card or an electronic means to pay. If you use the card to purchase, sanitize after use with a sanitizer wipe.
- Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer after you shop.
- Handwashing is preferred over gloves. Research has shown that most consumers use gloves inappropriately. Specifically, consumers have been shown to touch their face with the gloves on.
What is my grocery store doing to minimize my risk?
- Most stores are following CDC guidelines on cleaning and disinfection. Many stores have reduced their open hours to allow for cleaning and disinfection between days.
- CDC also recommends asking all employees if they are sick and instructing them to stay home. In addition, most stores have a strict questioning process to ensure employees stay home if they have symptoms.
- Stores may also be providing sanitizer to customers and asking sick customers to leave.
When you get home with your groceries, there is no need to clean and sanitize the outside of the food packages, but it is a good practice to wash your hands after you have put away all the groceries.
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