COVID-19 and Food Safety FAQ: Shopping and Handling Groceries1

Natalie Seymour, Mary Yavelak, Candice Christian, and Ben Chapman 2

Updated April 21, 2020

Current evidence shows the biggest risk of transmission of COVID-19 is being around individuals who have symptoms (and to a lesser extent, infected but not showing symptoms). Grocery stores should be following employee health policies and health department recommendations to keep these individuals home.

SHOPPING

WHAT STEPS CAN I TAKE TO MINIMIZE RISK WHEN SHOPPING AT THE GROCERY STORE?

  • Use hand sanitizer when entering stores, and wash hands and/or use sanitizer after leaving.

  • Wear a cloth face covering while shopping.

  • Bring disinfecting wipes and use on cart and basket handles and card readers.

  • Maintain social distancing as much as possible while shopping and give others at least 6 ft of space.

  • Avoid touching surfaces or items unnecessarily and avoid touching your mouth, nose or face.

  • Do not go shopping when showing symptoms or if you think you have been exposed to the virus.

WHAT IS MY GROCERY STORE DOING TO MINIMIZE MY RISK?

  • Many stores are following CDC guidelines on cleaning and disinfection. Some are limiting hours to allow for additional cleaning and disinfection.

  • Stores may also be providing hand sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes for carts or baskets, and may ask sick employees or customers to leave.

  • Grocery employees are essential employees and encouraged to wear cloth face coverings.

  • Stores may also limit the number of people allowed to shop at one time, and enforce physical distancing while in line inside and outside the store.

IS DELIVERY A SAFER OPTION THAN GOING TO THE STORE?

  • Delivery or pre-order is a great risk management decision, especially for vulnerable individuals.

  • Delivery helps limit the number of people in the store and helps with social distancing, as well as the number of people touching surfaces.

  • Pre-order or delivery also prevents the shopper from inadvertently exposing others if they are infected but not showing symptoms.

HOW SHOULD PRODUCE BE HANDLED?

  • Consider using hand sanitizer before and after selecting produce items.

  • Avoid touching multiple produce items when making selections.

HANDLING GROCERIES

HOW SHOULD I HANDLE GROCERIES WHEN I GET HOME? CAN I BRING THEM INSIDE RIGHT AWAY?

  • There is no indication that food or food packaging material has served in significant connection to virus transmission.

  • Handling of food packaging should be followed with handwashing and/or using hand sanitizer.

  • It is NOT recommended to store groceries outside of the home, in cars or garages.

HOW SHOULD I HANDLE GROCERIES FOR SOMEONE WHO IS IN A VULNERABLE POPULATION?

  • If shopping for someone else, best practice is to drop off groceries while maintaining social distance.

  • If entering a home to care for someone, wash hands immediately upon arrival, while unpacking and before providing direct care.

SHOULD PRODUCE BE WASHED BEFORE EATING? SHOULD SOAP OR A DISINFECTANT BE USED?

  • Washing produce before eating is always a good idea. Rinse with cool running water or soak in cool water right before eating.

  • It is NOT recommended to wash produce with dish soap or any detergent.

  • It is NOT recommended to treat produce with chemical disinfectants or wipes at home.

SHOULD I ONLY BUY FOOD THAT CAN BE HEATED?

  • There is no evidence that food is a transmission route for the virus.

  • There is not current data about the temperature to inactivate the virus, so heating recommendations are not science-based.

TIPS

  1. Use hand sanitizer and cart wipes.

  2. Shop alone and go with a plan.

  3. Maintain social distance.

  4. Only touch what you will buy.

For more info, visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov

(800) 232-4636

Footnotes

1. This document is FSHN20-26, one of a series of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date April 2020. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.
2. Natalie Seymour, MS, Extension associate; Mary Yavelak, MS, Extension associate; Candice Christian, MPH, Extension associate; and Ben Chapman, professor, food safety specialist; NC State University Extension. UF Contact: Michelle Danyluk, professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred, FL | mddanyluk@ufl.edu | (863) 956-8654.

Publication #FSHN20-26

Date: 2020-05-19

Related Topics

Fact Sheet

Contacts

  • Michelle Danyluk