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COVID-19: Do You Need To Sanitize Groceries? Experts Weigh In

Washing your hands is the best way to make sure you don't transmit COVID-19 from groceries.
Washing your hands is the best way to make sure you don't transmit COVID-19 from groceries. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Just when you thought you had all of your bases covered when it comes to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), now people are asking if they need to sanitize groceries.

Most health officials, including the CDC and the FDA, are more concerned about people being infected at the grocery store by other people than the virus contaminating groceries.

That’s why it’s important to stay at least 6 feet from other people at all times. And not to be afraid to ask someone to step back.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in addition to close person-to-person contact, people can pick up the virus by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their faces.

Some surfaces may pose a bigger risk than others such as plastic and stainless steel which can carry the virus for up to 72 hours and cardboard which the virus can live on for up to 24 hours, according to the New England Journal of Medicine .

According to a report in Healthline , Dr. Charlotte Baker, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, says in addition to people, shoppers should assume all surfaces, including produce and packaged foods, have been touched by someone who is sick.

“Touch just the items you intend to buy, wipe down the cart or basket handles with disinfectant wipes, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when you’re done,” Baker said to Healthline .

That doesn't mean you need to wipe down your food. In fact, health officials are worried people will spray down produce or other foods with harmful chemical anti-bacterial sprays.

Others are pointing to the now common practice of using reusable bags. The bags could become contaminated from sitting in baskets, being handled by grocery workers and other methods. That doesn't mean you have to use plastic. CDC officials say washing the bags with common clothes detergent should remove any bacteria.

As for fruit, yes, it should always be washed. But more importantly, so should your hands before handling it.

The key phrase is to wash your hands and wash them again. And, don't touch your face.

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