Grocery Shopping Tips During Corona: Our Top 8 Questions

Updated on 06. Aug. 2020
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The coronavirus pandemic has prompted many questions about how to maintain your health while going about necessary, unrestricted errands, and nowhere more so than in the grocery store. We sat down with Dr. Alexa Iwan to ask some of our most pressing questions about how to practice optimum safety while shopping for food, any groceries to avoid and other tips for keeping our families safe while putting food on the table.  

1. Can Covid-19 be transmitted via food purchased at the supermarket?

Dr. Iwan: If someone affected by coronavirus sneezes on a loose apple and the apple is then eaten by someone else before first washing, this is then eaten unwashed by someone else, virus transmission can theoretically occur. However, this scenario is highly unlikely.

Nevertheless, I would always wash loose foods such as fruit and vegetables that will be eaten raw thoroughly with warm water. Remember that the cooking process will kill any strains of the virus left on foods. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to wash all your produce before consuming whether you’re cooking or not.

2. Will pathogens on food be killed during the cooking or freezing process?

When it comes to cooking, yes. Viruses are sensitive to heat and die at temperatures above 140 degrees. However, freezing is unlikely to inactivate COVID-19. Other coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, have been found not to show sensitivity to cold temperatures and can survive up to two years at -4 degrees.

3. How helpful is it to wear facemasks and gloves while shopping?

In order to contain the virus, many state officials across the country have made it mandatory to wear a facemask while entering businesses like supermarkets. These masks help to contain possible contamination and also keep you from putting your hands on your face when shopping.

Gloves are a personal decision. For those who have no opportunity to wash their hands after shopping, disposable gloves are certainly a great solution. Remember though if you touch your face while wearing gloves, you’ve defeated the purpose. 

4. What are some precautions I should like while shopping to ensure I don’t endanger my health or that of other shoppers’? 

The rules of "social distancing" apply here: make sure to keep a distance of 6 feet from other people at all times, especially when queuing in the checkout line or when interacting with the cashier. Even if you see a friend at the store, make sure you maintain distance and don’t touch them. If another customer wants to take goods out of the same freezer at the same moment, wait until this person has finished and left.

And the perennial rule: if you are showing any symptoms of being sick or think you might have been recently exposed to the coronavirus, don’t go to the grocery store.  

5. What should I do if other people do not keep their distance from me?

I would kindly but firmly ask that they step six feet away from you, per the official recommendations [of the CDC]. If that does not help, leave the situation.

6. We are seeing noodles and potatoes in short supply at the store. What are some alternatives?

I just bought some packets of rice and quinoa. Bulgur, millet and couscous are also good, satiating side dishes. Perhaps one positive thing that can come from the quarantine is it will open up new cooking and taste experiences for us.

7. Can Covid-19 be transmitted via cash?

In principle, coronaviruses can reach surfaces through direct sneezing or coughing of an infected person and survive there for a while. This applies to cash as well as to card terminals and shopping cart handle.

Therefore a smear infection could theoretically be possible if someone coughs on a banknote and then someone else touches it and then their face soon afterward.  It is therefore important to keep your hands away from your face when shopping and to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after returning home.

8. How safe is it to order food for delivery?

As in many other cases, there is not a 100% certainty you won’t get sick from delivery food. I would advise against ordering cold dishes with raw ingredients, such as salads or sushi. On the other hand, the risk is not particularly high with heated and cooked dishes. Make sure that you stay within six feet of the delivery person, having them place the food outside of your door instead of a direct hand-off. After unpacking and before the meal, the same advice you’ve heard over and over again applies: wash your hands!

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