(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

A routine trip to the grocery store can be complicated by a boatload of questions in the age of COVID-19.

The pandemic has left many shoppers wondering whether they need to sanitize their cardboard cereal boxes or plastic yogurt containers before unloading their grocery bags.

But several experts say washing your hands is more important than wiping down every item you put in the fridge.

Research published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic.

Experts say the risk of consumers catching the novel coronavirus from picking up items in the grocery aisle appears to be quite low, but it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions.

They said it’s possible that someone with COVID-19 could cough, sneeze or touch an item with contaminated hands before it’s brought home by another shopper. But the chances of that scenario are pretty slim.

“I think the risk of actually having the coronavirus on your stuff is actually pretty low,” said Jeff Kwong, the associate director of the Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto.

“I think wiping it all down is just an extra precaution and then just washing your hands afterwards is probably sufficient.”

University of Guelph food science professor Keith Warriner agreed that the risk of the novel coronavirus lingering on your packaged groceries is low.

Since research on the virus is still emerging, Warriner said it may be wise to take some simple precautions.

“Washing your hands before you touch anything,” he said. “Wash anything before you eat it.”

READ MORE: B.C. bans ‘shameful black market’ of food, medical supplies; limits buying quantities

But how far should one go in sanitizing their foodstuffs? Should granola bar boxes be given a quick wipe? What about that plastic container of parmesan cheese?

Jennifer Ronholm, an assistant professor in the faculty of agricultural and environmental sciences at McGill University, felt grocery worries were of “minimal concern” from a public health perspective.

But if extra cleaning or disinfecting helps provide peace of mind — then go for it, she said.

“If you were very worried about it, it’s not going to hurt you to wipe your food down when you get home,” said Ronholm.

“But again, the chances are very minimal.”

Lawrence Goodridge, a food safety professor at the University of Guelph, said he doesn’t think the cleaning of plastic or cardboard items from the grocery store is really necessary.

“Research studies tend not to mimic what happens in everyday life,” he said. “I think the consumers and the general public are worried because there’s this image out there that those cereal boxes are literally just covered all over the surface with the virus. Well that’s not the case.”

When bringing groceries inside, other suggested precautions include disinfecting the countertop before and after unloading. One no-no, Goodridge said, was wearing gloves during the process.

“Gloves tend to give people a false sense of security,” he said. “Because they think that they’re wearing gloves that anything the virus can’t get on to their hands. But gloves themselves can become dirty and spread things.”

Once a product is brought home, consumers have control from there, he said. And if ever in doubt, grab the soap and turn on the tap.

“You wash your hands when you come in, you wash your hands after you’ve handled it, you wash your hands before you eat, prepare food, or do anything to your face that you want to do and I think you should be safe then.”

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusGroceries

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amount from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Downed trees account for the majority of power outages, according to BC Hydro, which plans to spend more money on tree pruning and hazardous tree removal in coming years in the face of changing weather and growing patterns caused by climate change. (Photo courtesy of the City of Langford)
BC Hydro says safety guides tree removal policy

Crown corporation says it will work with property owners wherever possible

Summer camps held by SEAPARC in Sooke and by West Shore Parks and Recreation are gearing up for a playful season. (SEAPARC photo)
Sooke, West Shore summer camps prepping to welcome youngsters

Registration opening for both day and week-long camps

A photograph of the real firearm beside the replica firearm seized by VicPD in the early hours of April 18. (Courtesy VicPD)
Police seize loaded firearm, drugs during traffic stop in Victoria

Officers find cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl along with loaded handgun

Sidney council approved a broad package of tax relief measures, but concerns about its timing and effectiveness remain. (Black Press Media File).
President of cannabis company considers legal action against Sidney

Sidney already lost one legal action by another cannabis retailer in summer 2020

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Ladysmith-area Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations

Most Read