Tips for Safe Shopping | As Things Reopen, Extra Care is Needed

The current rules for grocery shopping aim to limit transmission of COVID-19, that means that we must get used to a few things beyond being quarantined.

The current rules for grocery shopping aim to limit transmission of COVID-19 but will not change soon, and that means that we must get used to a few things beyond being quarantined. Workers at any point in the food supply chain or fellow shoppers touching items while deciding what to buy could contaminate the surfaces of grocery store products with coronavirus. Because the virus survives on cardboard for 24 hours and on metal and plastic for 3 days, you may encounter the virus in the grocery store and bring it home with your purchases. Here are some tips for safe grocery shopping during the lockdown.

Before you go shopping

Ideally, everyone should plan their shopping trips. Try to go to the grocery store only when you have to and prepare a shopping list for products that you will need for at least one week to reduce the number of trips you need to make.

If you are elderly or have an illness that puts you at high risk of becoming sick with COVID-19, ask someone to shop for you or order food from the grocery store. There are delivery services available at Billa and Interspar, and they will leave your groceries at your door. If you shop for yourself, try to go before 9 am or at off-peak hours when there are fewer customers.

At the grocery store

Aim to be fast and efficient to reduce your time in the store. If you don’t need help, shop alone because fewer people in the store makes it easier to maintain social distancing.

At the entrance of the grocery store, signs indicate that you must wear a mask and which disinfected carts to use. For extra protection, you might want to wipe the cart handle with disinfectant or wear gloves. Remember, if you choose to wear gloves, this is to remind you not to touch your face with your hands while shopping.

To avoid contaminating grocery products and reduce the risk of touching products with COVID-19 on them, only touch what you are going to buy, especially in the produce section.

At the Cashier, you might want to remove your gloves because they will contaminate personal items like your wallet, credit cards and phone. Preferably, use a contactless credit card payment to avoid handling money and back change. And remember to sanitize your hands after you leave the shop and before you take your mask off.

When you get home

Unpacking the groceries is the tricky part. When you get home, put your purchases in a designated area reserved for potentially virus-contaminated products. COVID-19 is sensitive to soap and water and disinfectant, which means that it is easy to wash or disinfect surfaces of airtight packages.

For all products, you can carefully open the package and empty the contents into clean containers for storage and throw away the packaging materials.

Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables with cold running water as usual and never use disinfectant of any kind on your fresh produce. It’s best to disinfect frozen items before placing them into the freezer because low temperatures may prolong virus survival. If you don’t immediately need nonperishables like products in tins and jars, leave them in a designated area for at least three days before storing them with other food.

After disinfecting your purchases and putting them away, clean the reserved designated areas. Be sure to wash or sanitize potentially contaminated shopping bags, phone, wallet, money or credit cards or leave them in a reserved area for a few days. 

(Foto: Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels)

Dr. Michelle Epstein
Michelle Epstein is a medical doctor graduated from the University of Alberta in Canada, who has specialised in Internal Medicine at the University of British Columbia and Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Yale University. Since 2004, she has been a Lab Leader at the Medical University of Vienna’s Division of Immunology.

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