Your questions answered: How do you bring groceries into your home?

You’re not alone if you’ve been worrying about how to bring your groceries into your home safely. I’ve received a number of queries from readers. There’s currently a video by a family doctor which has been widely circulated and it’s creating needless stress- to put it mildly! If you have watched this video, relax and don’t get caught up in the hype.

While there are some important recommendations in the video (yes, wash your hands properly for 20 seconds, before and after handling groceries), there are many suggestions that have no basis in current science. No, you do not need to wash every piece of produce for 20 seconds with soap and water! In fact, while you may use soap and water on certain fruits and vegetables, you don’t want to do this with produce you can’t peel as it could make you feel sick. And 20 seconds for each piece of fruit or vegetable is not necessary. Basic food safety measures, though, still hold.

All produce should be thoroughly washed, under running water, whether you peel it or not. This something I’ve written about before in terms of smart food handling practices. Some with rough surfaces, such as cantaloupes, should be scrubbed with a vegetable brush.

Here is what the experts on the topic are saying.

From the Canadian Food Inspection Agency:

“COVID-19 transmission through food

Scientists and food safety authorities across the world are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19. There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued precautionary recommendations including advice on the need to continue to follow good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, such as washing hands, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods. More information can be found on the WHO website.”


From the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.:
“Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. CDC notes that in general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures. It is more likely that a person will be exposed by person-to-person transmission involving close contact with someone who is ill or shedding the virus.

Consumers can follow CDC guidelines on how to protect yourself, especially the advice on frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces.”

As for other grocery products, such as paper packaging, canned goods and plastic, there is not a lot of information available but in a small study which looked at the stability of the virus on various surfaces, the paper was the least stable. So if you purchase any products with paper packaging, consider putting it aside for 24 hours for before handling it further. Canned goods surfaces as well as plastic seemed to allow for longer stability so wiping them down with wipes or disinfectant is likely wise.

The bottom line, though,  and it can’t be said often enough: Wash your hands properly for 20 seconds, before and after handling groceries. Try not to touch your face so that you do not introduce the virus into your mouth, nose or eyes. Disinfect surfaces in your home to rid your home if any potential contamination.


My follow up post on stress eating will be coming soon.


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Categories: Food Safety

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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7 Comments on “Your questions answered: How do you bring groceries into your home?”

  1. March 31, 2020 at 9:41 am #

    Good information, thanks for posting!

  2. Roslyn Nudell
    March 31, 2020 at 5:58 pm #

    This is an excellent article. I do have one question though: what about milk/ bread/fruit in plastic wrap? It doesn’t seem safe to wipe the bags with disinfectant… the food might absorb it. TIA

    • April 1, 2020 at 1:18 pm #

      Thanks for your feedback, Roslyn! To answer your question, how you handle it would depend on the food. For fruit, I would remove it from the plastic wrap and toss the plastic out. But before washing the fruit, wash your hands well for the recommended 20 seconds. For larger containers such as pre-washed greens, I would use wipes but not a spray as the amount could result in seepage. For the milk, I do think if you use wipes on the outside bag, the inner ones should be fine. As for bread, I would transfer it out of the bag to a container or a clean bag but be sure not to close the container or bag or touch the bread with your hands until you have washed your hands again. I hope this helps!

  3. April 1, 2020 at 5:05 am #

    Sensible and anti-panic. Well done Rosie – there is enough stress out there without people having to worry needlessly.

  4. Andrea Licursi
    April 3, 2020 at 9:26 am #

    Thank you Rosie for writing such a relevant and sensible article. Excellent links!

    • April 3, 2020 at 1:31 pm #

      Thank you so much, Andrea! I really appreciate your feedback!

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