Coronavirus Shopping: Should You Disinfect Groceries?

Going grocery shopping is necessary, even during the coronavirus pandemic. Since so many products are out in public, it is reasonable to worry if you must disinfect those products once you get home. According to some experts though, it is not necessary to wipe down the products who just bought, although you can wipe down inedible containers. However, it is definitely not a good idea to wipe vegetables and fruits with chemicals.

When you get home from shopping, the first thing you should do is wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises, or use hand sanitizer. Lauren Bryan, RN, infection preventionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, told you can wipe down inedible containers with a disinfectant wipe if you want to be super cautious. It is not necessary to put everything in new containers, unless you already do so. You can wash fruits and vegetables with water, but never use products you cannot consume.

Once you unpack, Dr. Jaimie Meyer at Yale Medicine suggests disinfecting all counter-tops, "as we all should be doing at least a few times a day anyways," she told The FDA also suggests you "wash your hands after handling food packaging, after removing food from the packaging, before you prepare food for eating and before you eat" if you are concerned your food may be contaminated.

Donald Schaffner, a microbiologist and food safety expert at Rutgers University, debunked the idea that you should leave groceries outside for three days before taking them inside. "There is a tiny nugget of truth in this advice, because we know that the virus is slowly inactivated at room temperature, with a half-life of about eight hours," he wrote in Science Alert. "But this advice presumes that all groceries are contaminated, and that simply touching the groceries will make you sick, neither of which are true."

"If you are concerned about the outside of food packages being contaminated, I suggest that you wash your hands and/or sanitize your hands before you sit down to eat any food that you might've taken out of those containers," Schaffner continued. "And guess what, washing your hands before you eat is a best practice even when we're not in a pandemic!"


Grocery stores are open, and many chains have changed their hours to allow employees to spend extra time cleaning stores. However, there are options to get groceries online, either through delivery or pick-up. If that is not an option, Meyer suggested going when stores are less crowded, like early in the morning or late in the evening. It is important to continue practicing social distancing, and some stores have already placed labels on the floors to remind people to stay at least six feet apart. Some stores are also limiting capacity, and counting customers as they enter.