Coronavirus: Groceries & Packages.
Is there risk from groceries and packages?
The virus has been shown to remain infectious on surfaces. But what about from your groceries or packages that you receive? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main way that the virus spreads is thought to be from person-to-person. Although infection through touching contaminated surfaces is thought to be possible, contact through skin alone will not cause an infection and the virus is believed to only infect the body through bodily orifices such as touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.
The CDC has stated that with regards to groceries and packages, there is no evidence to support transmission of the virus through these methods. Because groceries and packages are delivered or kept over days at various temperatures, there is very low survivability of the virus on such items.
What about food?
Similarly, the CDC states that there is no evidence of the virus transmitting through actual food itself. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the virus is not known as a foodborne virus. Experts at North Carolina State University have also stated that the virus requires a living host and cannot grow on food. Further, the virus is unlikely to survive a human’s stomach acids and is not suited to infect the body through the digestive tract. The CDC however continues to recommend practicing good food hygiene such as separating raw meat from other foods, cooking to the right temperature, and refrigerating foods promptly.
Using reusable bags?
Reusable bags are considered as a highly touched items and do carry theoretical risks. Several states in the US have delayed or lifted the ban on use of plastic bags and conversely, banned the use of reusable bags instead. The CDC has not officially called for any action regarding the use of reusable bags. However, it is interesting to note that previously with regards to the Listeria outbreak, the CDC has advised that reusable bags be washed frequently in the washing machine, preferably after every use.
Handling items at home.
As mentioned above, there is currently no evidence to suggest transmission of the virus through groceries and packaging. However, for those who rather be safe than sorry, some recommendations are as follows:-
a) Always wash / sanitize your hands before and after dealing with any items brought from outside the home;
b) When bringing groceries into your home, place them into your sink immediately;
c) From the sink, unpack your groceries and place them into your own clean containers. Dispose of the packaging as soon as you can;
d) Thoroughly wash your hands and your sink after; and
e) Sanitize high contact areas that you have touched when coming back home such as your kitchen surfaces, door knobs, and handles.
Do remember that the highest risk factor when doing groceries is through coming into contact with persons or other highly touched items such as door handles and shopping carts. Similarly when receiving packages, the highest risk factor will be from coming into contact with the delivery person. In such situations, always ensure to wash / sanitize your hands after dealing with such persons and highly touched items, especially so when you re-enter your home. It is extremely important to ensure that you do not touch your face during and after your dealing with such persons and highly touched items, until you have washed / sanitized your hands.