Should I Disinfect My Groceries? Advice About Grocery Shopping Safely : Shots

Going to the grocery store? Scientists share their advice about what to worry about and what not to.

Katrina Wittkamp/Getty Images

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Katrina Wittkamp/Getty Images

Going to the grocery store? Scientists share their advice about what to worry about and what not to.

Katrina Wittkamp/Getty Images

The vast majority of the country is under lockdown right now. But stay-at-home orders come with a few caveats — like grocery shopping.

Many of us are still venturing out to stock up on food and toiletries. But what’s the safest way to shop during this pandemic? And what should you do once you’ve brought your haul home?

We asked infectious disease, virology and food safety experts to share their tips about safe grocery shopping — and what you can stop worrying about.

Know the dangers — focus on the people, not the food

Many people worry about the possibility of picking up the coronavirus from things like grocery store conveyor belts or cereal boxes. But every expert NPR spoke with agrees that the biggest risk when it comes to groceries is being inside the store itself with other people who may be infected.

“While it is possible to contract the virus [from contaminated surfaces], the majority of transmission is probably going to be from respiratory droplets, which you’re exposed to when you’re around other people,” says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Avoid crowds and shop quickly

Donald Schaffner, a food microbiologist and distinguished professor at Rutgers University, advises that you look for a grocery store that limits the number of shoppers that are allowed to go in at one time. While that might lead to a long line outside, it’s also likely to make it easier to practice social distancing inside the store — staying at least 6 feet away from other people. And once you are in there, he says focus on getting in and out as fast as possible to minimize your risk.

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