Risk Associated with Packaged and Unwrapped groceries
What helps any disease to spread is the way how it is transmitting. The COVID-19 virus is a respiratory illness. Even though the infection does not transmit through any items, but it is contagious. So, yes, it cannot directly spread through items but can travel through the surfaces of items we come in contact during the transit. Hence, you exhibit the utmost care of all the things you are touching.
Covid-19 has limited our reach. But what it cannot ever stop is our everyday basic needs we all have to buy essential items. Groceries are the foremost basic necessity which we use every day, and as soon as its stock starts reducing, we replenish it. Right from vegetables, milk to grains, pulses, etc. are our daily consumption products, and we often go to Supermarkets, call for home delivery, or shop from a local shop beside our house. The risk associated with the spreading of the virus through these items is minor but needs proper cautions after bringing it inside the house.
How is the risk posed through Groceries
For instance, in a supermarket, packaged food arrives at a store after its manufacturing, shifting, loading, and the last step is placing it on the shelves. Now, even though we believe in handling cautiously. Disinfection and sanitizing all the shelves does not remove the virus completely, and there is a risk of transmission. Customers and staff operate by touching the shelves, products, trolleys even though anyone infected with coronavirus touches it. Imagine how many people can spread it to whoever comes in contact with the same surface.
But groceries are something that is unavoidable and nor the risk associated with its buying. But what can help everyone to fight the spread is by taking care of the items that we touch or bring home.
Below is a classification of groceries based upon its surface and ways to disinfect it:
Fruits and Vegetables
As soon as you bring fruits and vegetables from the market packed or unpacked, keep it in a freshly washed container. Before rinsing the fruits and vegetables, make sure you wash your own hands for at least 20 seconds underwater with hand wash, soap, etc. once you clean your own hands, start rinsing the fruits and vegetables under running water. Wash them under clean, running water with your own hands. Rub the surfaces of the product and make sure to clean them well. Remember, some veggies and fruits require extra attention like cabbage or leafy vegetables. Wash the upper leaves and layers, remove and dispose of them if required, and wash again. Don’t forget to wash your hands again for 20 seconds after rinsing off the fruits and vegetables. The second step is to wipe and dry the fruits and vegetables properly and store them in the refrigerator. Remember to segregate raw and cooked food and store them separately. Heat and cook the raw food thoroughly and then eat. Wash the fruits and vegetables even before consuming them. Try to store the stock in good condition, so it lasts for several days and reduces wastage and your frequency of going out to buy again and again. Lastly, it’s all about eating fresh and healthy food. In such unprecedented times, it’s equally important to eat nutritional value foods that help in boosting up immunity. So, taking care of the food you perfectly bought at home and cooking is also an important factor in fighting the virus at home.
Some additional tips:
i) Do not use soap or detergent to clean your vegetables or fruits. It is nothing but a myth suggested by FDA that you require a liquid to clean produce.
ii) Use hands to rub on the surfaces of the produce. If you feel that is not enough in cleaning, go for a brush or sponge to remove the dirt, and clean thoroughly.
iii) Cook the raw items properly to kill the germs and bacteria inside it
iv) Cut off the damaged or bruised parts of fruits and vegetables before consuming
Packaged products/ items
Packaged foods can also be a carrier in spreading of Covid-19. Even though the risk is minor, it’s very necessary to disinfect the item’s package and the item itself too. Remember that the package you are planning to bring home or have already bought home has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures, so before you mix it up with the storage and contaminate the whole storage.
Studies suggest that the terms of the Virus can be active on the plastic/stainless steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and cardboard for up to 24 hours. So, to begin with, once the package is home, keep it untouched for at least 72 hours and let the Virus get inactive. Another way is to wipe off the surface of the product with an alcohol-based disinfectant or spray the bleach to clean it. Once you are done with the disinfection, do not forget to clean your own hands for 20 seconds with hand wash, detergent, etc.
Some additional tips:
i) Make a cleaning station at home, i.e., decide one place at home where all purchased items would be placed and cleaned before they enter their respective places
ii) Disposing of the package that contained the item can also be a healthy way to reduce the risk of the Virus. If possible, transfer the contents of the package to a different clean container/tin at home.
iii) It’s recommended to use fresh items rather than choosing pasteurized packaged products and consuming homemade items and meals. By preferring this, you can cut a lot of packaged food which is not required.
iv)Clean all the surfaces like tables, countertops, handbags that have been used to store/place or carry the packaged item temporarily.
This category mainly considers the items that you bring home and either has to consume directly or use as an ingredient in any other recipe, right from a dairy to the poultry shop where we prefer buying it unwrapped and from the main source. The only way to make sure we avoid the risk of the virus is to heat the items in the right temperatures and cook them properly to kill the bacteria present in it if any.
The handling of such goods can be given extra attention, like carrying a sanitizer to the store. Carrying your own clean and disinfectant container with you to bring the unwrapped goods to home.
Some additional tips
i) Change your disinfection techniques according to the food type, for example, the milk require boiling and wash the egg under running water
ii) Cook the Raw meat thoroughly.
Additional care while buying groceries
i) Plan and buy what’s required. If you know you need some products in quantities, then bulk buy. Try to avoid wasting food at home and store as much as possible. Do not panic and buy in bulk all the things and contribute to the supply shortage.
ii) Carry your sanitizer, PPE kit along and make sure to use it full time. Sanitise your trolley handles where you touch, sanitize hands when taking the product at the final counter
iii) Make sure not to touch spaces unnecessarily that might have come in contact with many people or if you do then make sure you clean your hands immediately
iv) Don’t touch stuff that you don’t intend to buy this can reduce the chances of increasing the risk of catching the virus
v) Please take advantage of home delivery option whenever possible, as its always safer to call for home delivery with contactless option and then follow your own sterilization/sanitization on the groceries
vi) Prefer online payments that will help you to avoid exchanging the cash and avoid contact
vii) Avoid touching face and your material as once you have entered the supermarket already consider everything here has been touched by a sick person so try not to take your hand close to your face or your material like wallet, mobile phone
viii) Please dispose of the PPE instruments and promote the use of use and throw masks, gloves so that once you are home disposing of them and follow the cleaning process on your own hands and the groceries too
x) Maintain social distance while buying groceries, as sometimes it is not the groceries but the people and species you came in contact with and contaminated your groceries by their or your own hands. To maintain 3-6 feet distance while shopping for your groceries.