Whether it’s groceries or a take-out meal, food and its packaging should be handled with care and disinfected before it’s put away in your home while the world grapples with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Jeffrey VanWingen, a family doctor with Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, created a 13-minute video to show everyone how to bring food into their homes as safely as possible.
“Imagine that your groceries are covered in glitter, and your goal at the end of this is to not have any glitter in your house, on your hands or, especially, on your face,” VanWingen said. “Imagine that disinfectants and soap have the power to dissolve that glitter.”
The National Institute of Health reports that coronavirus can live in air for three hours, on cardboard for one hour, and on plastic and metal surfaces for three days.
The best way to keep the “glitter” out of your home is to leave groceries outside (on the back porch or in the garage) for three days if possible, VanWingen said. If that’s not possible, he adapted a surgical sterilization technique for use on groceries.
HOW TO DISINFECT GROCERIES
- Sanitize a table before bringing groceries inside
- Establish a dirty side of the table to place groceries that are coming into the house, and a clean side to place items after they’re sanitized
- Use a household disinfectant spray or wipe
- Disinfect plastic, glass and metal packaging
- Trash unnecessary and external packaging like cardboard boxes that have plastic bags inside (the plastic bags inside boxes should be OK without additional disinfecting)
- Some items, such as bread or chips can be dumped directly into clean plastic containers without touching them - or disinfect the packaging
- Clean fruit and vegetables that are not bought in plastic bags by dumping them into soapy water, and then washing/scrubbing each piece for at least 20 seconds
- Reusable grocery bags should be considered dirty after use; plastic bags should be thrown out
“This all seems a bit time consuming, but, in truth, these days people do have a bit more time on their hands," VanWingen said. “Let’s be methodical and be safe, and not take any chances.”
- Sanitize a table before bringing in take-out food
- Establish dirty side of the table to place the take-out bags that are coming into the house, and clean side to place items that are ready to eat onto plates
- Dump food from inside their packages onto a plate without allowing the item to touch the outside of the package
- Microwave hot food before eating
The food isn’t the main concern since coronavirus doesn’t live long in hot food, VanWingen said. However, the packaging could be contaminated. Choosing hot foods from restaurants is safer than cold foods at this time, he added.
Also note that coronavirus can live in frozen foods for long periods of time, he said. The freezer should not be considered a safe zone. Frozen food packaging should be disinfected like everything else.
“Go out there, use this knowledge and do the best that you can,” VanWingen said.
Since March 10, COVID-19 cases in Michigan went from 2 to 1,791 on March 24, which was the day that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Shelter-in-place” order went into effect. There have been 24 deaths. Forty-one of Michigan’s 83 counties are home to a resident who contracted coronavirus. About 85% of the COVID-19 cases -- 1,561 of 1,791 -- are in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus. Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible. Carry hand sanitizer with you, and use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home ( door handles, faucets, countertops ) and when you go into places like stores.