Grocery Shopping and Food Delivery Safety During COVID-19
BY AMANDA BIALEK
Whether you shop in-store or get your groceries delivered, there are ways you can protect yourself and others from exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Here are some tips from Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) experts on what to do before, during and after a trip to the grocery store.
Always plan ahead
Minimize the number of trips to the grocery store by planning accordingly. Keep an ongoing grocery list throughout the week so you don’t forget anything. If possible, shop during non-peak hours.
Wear a cloth face mask
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a cloth face mask in public places like grocery stores where social distancing may be difficult to maintain. Some people may be asymptomatic, which means that they do not have any visible symptoms. However, they still may be infected with COVID-19. By wearing a face mask in public places, we are protecting each other from unknowingly spreading the virus from person to person. Check out Face Masks 101 to learn more about face mask wear and care.
Disinfect the grocery cart
Use disinfectant wipes on the grocery cart handle. Most grocery stores have them available at the entrance. It’s a good idea to carry a pack of wipes in your pocket or purse for those times when the store is out of them. As a courtesy to the next customer, wipe off the cart before returning it.
Practice frequent hand hygiene
Luther Rhodes, MD, with LVPG Infectious Diseases, recommends taking a pump bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60 percent alcohol) into the grocery store. Keep it in the top part of the cart. “If it’s visible, you’re more likely to use it,” Rhodes says. Always use a full pump and apply it to your hands and wrists.
Avoid touching your face
Remember: Don’t touch your eyes, mouth and nose.
Unloading your groceries
You may have questions on how to appropriately handle groceries and high-touch surfaces during a pandemic. It’s important to remember that practicing healthy habits will not only help prevent the spread of COVID-19 but also other illnesses like influenza. Our experts recommend following these tips when you get home:
Wipe down high-touch surfaces in your car
Take time to wipe down surfaces in your car after going to the grocery store. You can use wipes to clean your steering wheel and gear stick.
Grocery care 101
According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is no current evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through food, food containers or packaging. Since the virus can survive on different surfaces, there are some extra precautions you can take.
Use warm water and soap to wash off nonporous items, such as glass jars or canned goods. Be sure to rinse them well in the sink. Another option is to wipe your groceries off with a damp dish cloth and mild soap. “This will increase chances of removing other harmful bacteria and viruses besides the coronavirus,” says Susheer Gandotra, MD, with LVPG Infectious Diseases. For other items, like fresh produce, rub and rinse with cool water as you normally would to remove pesticides.
Wipe your countertops
Clean off the countertops using a dish cloth with soap and water. To disinfect your counters and sink, you can use a common EPA-registered household disinfectant after putting away your groceries.
Grocery or food delivery
If you prefer to do online grocery shopping or feel like taking the night off from cooking, here are some helpful ways to keep you and your loved ones safe:
Avoid direct contact
Thank the delivery person from afar. “Remember, the virus does not spread by smiling,” Gandotra says. “You can still smile and gesture while practicing social distancing.” Pay in advance through your phone and tip electronically. You can bring in your groceries or take-out food after the delivery person has left.
Use your own dishes and utensils
Transfer your take-out food from the box and use your own plates and utensils to eat.
Wash your hands
Most importantly, wash your hands often to keep you and your family well. Hand washing is essential to prevent spreading germs. Remember to do so before and after eating.
For more health tips and COVID-19 updates, visit LVHN.org/COVIDSTRONG.