In March a Michigan doctor's video on how to sanitize your groceries went viral—and his tips were pretty involved. But are they really necessary? According to the infectious disease, virology, and food safety experts NPR spoke with, perhaps not. The upshot of their tips is this: "Focus on the people, not the food," as respiratory droplets are the biggest source of infection, per a Columbia University virologist. Here are seven more things to consider:
- Don't use your phone in the store. If you do so, you're basically putting your hand on your face—a no-no.
- Wear a mask, not gloves. Speaking of hands, the experts say gloves can provide a false sense of security and advise against them. As soon as you touch a contaminated surface the gloves are contaminated, but many people leave their gloves on for an extended period of time, and do things like talk on the phone or handle credit cards while wearing them. Instead, just wash or sanitize your hands as you enter and exit the store and once you get home.
- Chill on the grocery sanitizing. Good news—none of the experts NPR spoke with are going to town on the grocery sanitizing. One says the probability of getting infected from your bag of tortilla chips is just really low. You'd have to touch the very spot where respiratory droplets landed, get enough of it on your hands to get infected, and then touch your face. Washing your hands after unpacking your bags and before cooking and eating is good practice.
- But remember your countertops. After you unpack your groceries, give them a wipe down.
- Steer clear of disinfecting spray or wipes. You're trying to make sure your pasta is coronavirus-free ... but dousing the box it's packaged in using disinfectant isn't the way to go. The experts note such cleaning products are made for hard surfaces and could actually end up contaminating your food if used on certain kind of packaging. If you need to wipe, a little soap and water is sufficient.
- You don't need to soap up your produce. One expert says a simple cold-water rinse is fine, noting that consuming soap residue could spur diarrhea or vomiting.
- Wash your hands when touching frozen food at home. Cold temperatures help the virus live longer, so wash those hands after taking frozen items out of the freezer.
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