Grocery shopping and food handling safety and COVID-19

In these days of COVID-19, essential errands like grocery shopping present risks of exposure that can be countered with some basic precautions.

David Aronoff, MD, director of the division of Infectious Diseases, has contributed a piece on food safety and COVID-19 to JAMA, the flagship journal of the American Medical Association.

Published online on April 9, the brief article was featured on the JAMA Patient Page, a section of JAMA devoted to consumer health information. Aronoff worked with a co-writer, JAMA editorial fellow Angel Desai, MD, MPH.

The article briefly covers 2019 novel coronavirus transmission, including surface transmission and risks posed by grocery carts, disposable bags and food packaging.

While virus particles typically become inactive after 24 hours, they can remain active for up to 72 hours on some surfaces, the authors note. “Virus on the surface of groceries will become inactivated over time after groceries are put away. The inner contents of sealed containers are unlikely to be contaminated.”

Among other things, the article recommends that consumers:

  • Disinfect shopping carts and baskets.
  • Before leaving the store or while waiting in the checkout line, use hand sanitizer if available.
  • If using a disposable grocery bag, discard it once you are home; reusable bags can be stored for later use.
  • After unpacking your groceries, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol) and wipe surfaces with household disinfectants registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information, see the article online.