In the last several weeks, I have had a few friends and colleagues ask what I do when I grocery shop and when I bring my food home. I must admit my husband has done most of the shopping, and not just because of COVID-19. I loathe grocery shopping. I will get only on what’s on the list I have been given and if I cannot find something easily, it simply does not come home. The few times I have gone shopping, I have to say it is not so bad. But then again, cutting down the number of people in the store means less cart jams so I’m not getting cart rage.
There have been a number of suggestions for what to do when grocery shopping from all sorts of people, with the most ridiculous being a recommendation to follow almost an aseptic technique with surgical precision. I have heard stories that people have spent almost an hour wiping everything down with a disinfectant wipe prior to bringing anything in the house. We have moved to disposable plastic bags versus using our reusable bags. We sanitize our hands; before entering the store, when we are leaving the store, after putting groceries in the car, put the cart away and before we get into our car. We then wash our hands after we have finished putting the groceries away. I will openly admit, I know I have eaten an apple and pear without washing it.
It’s true that grocery shopping carries extra risk. Not only are you near other people, but many of the products you're buying have probably been handled by others, have definitely been in the 6’ bubbles of others, meaning it is quite possible that they have been sneezed or coughed on. I wholeheartedly agree that social distancing is extremely important and from my blog last week, wearing a mask in public keeps your respiratory droplets to yourself, helping reduce contamination of surfaces if you happen to be asymptomatic and are shedding COVID-19 while shopping. The CDC and every infection prevention expert I have heard continues to support that washing or sanitizing your hands is the single most important thing we can do, as is NOT touching your face and not eating until you have washed your hands.
I have seen an increased use of gloves and certainly, from an infection prevention perspective, they have their place, but unless you are trained in how to use them, in most cases you are potentially doing more harm than good. Assuming you use them, do you put them on prior to leaving your car? If you said yes, think about your shopping routine and how many things you have touched. Do you take them off after you have placed your groceries on the checkout conveyor? Do you keep them on until you get home, as I have to assume happens based on the number of blue hands I have been seeing of late? If you do the latter, think of the number of things you have touched? As a female, you have likely gone into your purse to get your wallet and retrieved your credit or debit card. How many times did you touch your phone while shopping? Is it sunny out? Did you put sunglasses on while walking to the car? Did you have to grab your keys? I think you get the point.
If you wear gloves thinking you are protecting yourself, please understand that those gloves have touched everything and has the chance to pick up pathogens like COVID-19 along the way. This is why my husband and I do not wear gloves in public but then sanitized our hands frequently while we are out shopping.
While there is evidence that contaminated surfaces may help in the spread of COVID-19, there is no evidence that food or food packaging has been linked to getting sick. The CDC’s recommendations are to wash your hands, disinfect the handles of grocery carts or baskets and avoid touching your face. We have enough to worry about, please do not add additional anxiety to your life.