We know that the virus can survive on hard surfaces for hours to days and Covid-19 can even survive in your freezer, so it is important to wipe down the containers of all your food before you put them in your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer.
There is some evidence that high heat of 132F/56C kills the virus rapidly, so heating food is the best way to make sure you are avoiding the virus.
Expert health care provider Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen MD, of Grand Rapids Michigan, has excellent recommendations using the latest information from the CDC on how to get your groceries into the house without contaminating your surroundings with Covid-19.
Humans are an adaptable species. And the novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2 is just one more thing we can learn to adapt to.
Simple safety tips to bring home your groceries without bringing the virus inside
The containers your food comes in should be wiped down using a technique adapted from sterile hospital technique. It isn’t going to be perfect, and it takes a little extra time, but it can save lives and slow the virus spread.
How to get groceries home safely in the Covid-19 Era
Delivery or grocery store?
Use a delivery service whenever possible. Some places are harder than others to get food delivered. If you have to go to the store try to wear gloves and a mask if you have them and discard them safely once you load groceries into the trunk before you touch your car door or the inside of the car. Covid-19 can live on stable surfaces for several hours so it is important to avoid touching surfaces that might be contaminated.
Gloves and Masks
Gloves are good in that they remind you not to touch your face. But gloves are not perfect and sometimes have microtears. You still have to wash your hands as soon as you get home.
While in the store it may help to carry a few antibacterial wipes and wipe down each handle or surface before you touch it even if you are wearing gloves because this may keep the gloves a little cleaner in case of microscopic tears in the gloves.
For instance, if you have to press buttons to pay at checkout or touch a bin handle to get bulk items, wipe it with a saturated antibacterial wipe. I have used the water filtration at whole foods in the past and always wiped down the handle of the dispenser as I got my water.
How to use masks
Make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth and do not touch the mask once it is on. Even cheaper paper masks can help a little. Masks have been controversial in the US, but they may have helped slow down the spread of Covid-19 in Asian countries where people are used to using them. The more expensive N 95 masks should not be used or hoarded because we need to save them for health care workers. But even a cheaper mask can help beat the odds if slightly.
Keep a trash bag for masks and gloves in the trunk. Do not touch the outside of the mask or gloves when removing them.
Keep antibacterial wipes in your trunk for your hands after removing the gloves and mask so that you do not contaminate the inside of your car steering wheel or door handles while driving home.
If you get grocery delivery you don’t need the mask because no one is breathing virus particles in the air all around you the way they may be in a store.
Leave non-perishables in the garage as long as possible
If you have some groceries that are nonperishable and you are not going to use them right away, you can wait for most of the virus to die on surfaces. Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen MD, recommends leaving groceries out in the garage for three days or longer if you are not using them right away and they don’t need refrigeration. This is not a perfect solution, but it can help to expose you to less viral material.
How to decontaminate your groceries safely
- Before you bring anything into the house set up an area to decontaminate each item.
- Wash your hands and put on a fresh pair of gloves if you have them.
- Wipe down your table with an antibacterial cleaner. According to the CDC, any common disinfectant solution is fine, and a whole lot better than nothing.
- Set up half the surface as the clean area and half as the dirty area
- Put the groceries down on the dirty half of your table without setting them on the floor or anywhere else first.
How to clean Covid-19 off of fruits and veggies
Immerse all fruits including bananas in a container of hot soapy water or a solution with vinegar and then scrub them down with a vegetable brush, and rinse thoroughly before placing them in a clean bowl.
How to decontaminate packaged foods
The Novel Corona virus can live on hard surfaces for several weeks, though it usually only lives for three days, so it is important to wipe down all packages.
Spray or wipe each package or bottle down with your rag that is soaked in antibacterial cleaner.
Pay special attention to the areas that humans might have touched most recently, for instance the ends of chips bags.
Then place each cleaned item in the clean area. For produce you can spray the bag it is in or dump the contents into a clean container.
Dump bagged items into clean Tupperware containers if you have them
Open the bags of food and without contaminating the clean area dump the produce, chips, or bread, etc. into a new clean Tupperware and set the empty bag back on the dirty side.
with packaged cereal, for instance, you can open the bag and without touching the cereal dump it into a clean plastic Tupperware container. Or if it is a plastic bag within a box open the box and dump the clean inner plastic bag onto the clean side.
How to handle take out foods safely during the Covid-19 pandemic
For take out foods you want to get everything out of the cardboard and plastic containers and onto clean plates or baking dishes and then microwave everything or heat it in the oven. It’s better to stick to hot items for now and forgo cold items since you don’t know how well restaurants are using sterile technique.
Dispose of all grocery bags and don’t use your cloths bags for now
Of course you will get rid of the bags once you get everything on the clean side of the table.
It is safer not to bring your own cloth bags from home to the store, and if you do use cloth bags, put them back outside right away or throw them in the washing machine.
Once you have gotten rid of the bags and empty containers, clean off the dirty side of the table and wipe down the inside and outside of door handles and any high-touch areas and wash your hands again.
Then put everything from the clean side of your decontamination area into your nice Covid-19 free fridge and shelves.
It helps to wipe high-touch areas of your home down with an antibacterial cleaner on a daily basis.
Read more about how you can protect yourself against Covid-19 by boosting your microbiome with a high fiber plant-based diet.