Despite the lockdown orders, shopping for groceries (essential items) remains a necessity during this COVID-19 pandemic. We all need to go out from time to time to get essential items if we are not subscribing to home delivery services.
However, most of us will have questions about how to shop for groceries safely. Unlike some gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like as ‘Norovirus’ and ‘Hepatitis A’ that often make people sick through contaminated food, there is no evidence of human or animal food, or food packaging linked to the transmission of COVID-19. This particular coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 causes respiratory disease and is spread from person-to-person.
To help protect your own self, other shoppers and grocery store workers, it is important to keep a few things in mind:
Minimize the amount of trips to Grocery Shops
Whether you like shopping or not, limit the amount of trips to the stores. Prepare a shopping list in advance and buy all the essentials/groceries at a time. Unfortunately, running to grocery store to get chocolates or chips or your favorite cool drink because you crave for it does not really count as essential in the current situation. Remember, every time you go out for shopping to a store, it is exposure to an enclosed space, which is a breeding ground for COVID-19 virus.
Wear a face mask or covering while you are in the store
Wearing a facemask protects others from you, if you are sick and vice versa. There is evidence that an infected person can spread the virus without even showing COVID-19 symptoms. Wearing a mask and not touching your face can reduce the risk of transmission.
Designate only one individual for grocery shopping
As everone at home are cooped up due to a prolonged COVID-19 lockdown, you may be tempted to bring along your whole family to shop. But it’s best if one person goes to limit exposure in the store. Limit only one person from you family/house to do the grocery shopping. Take care to avoid high-risk individuals (old people or people with co-morbid conditions) in your family/house having to go out.
Carry your own bags and wipes
Ensure that you carry your own wipes to wipe down the handles of the shopping basket or cart. Make sure you carry your own reusable carry bags and ensure they are washed or cleaned before each use
You really do not have to wear gloves
Self-contamination and cross-contamination can happen easily while wearing gloves as most people do not wear or dispose them of correctly. This defeats the whole purpose of wearing thde gloves. In addition, wearing gloves can gives us a sense of false security that we are safe. So, the best bet is to wash hands or sanitize them before going into the store and again as soon as we reach home.
Limit the surfaces you touch
Do not pick every piece of product/dig in clearance bins. Ensure to shop for only those items you need. Look for them, carefully, and try to touch only those you need.
Practice social distancing while shopping
The real danger lies in being in close proximity with other individuals, that too in an enclosed area. So, focus on maintaining at least 6 feet between you and other shoppers, including store staff.
Should groceries be disinfected
Again, there is no evidence right now that suggests that food packaging is linked to the spread of COVID-19. But, you can wipe down product packages and allow them to air dry, as an extra precaution if you want.
Luckily, the virus does not survive on surfaces for long. The virus often lasts a day or two before it loses its infectiousness and dies. So, there is nothing wrong with wiping off cereal boxes or that bag of chips, if that makes you feel safe. However, do not go overboard by trying to disinfect every last inch of all your grocery haul.
For products that do not need refrigeration, try letting them sit out for 24 hours before putting them in your shelves. And, in case of produce, it is best to wash them with cold water. However, there is no need to sanitize the fruits or vegetables.