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US doctor shows us how to sanitise our groceries

We are all trying to stay as clean and safe as possible, and groceries are the one thing coming in from outside. Here is how to make them safe

1y ago

Times are very odd. We are told to stay at home as much as possible and only make trips out of the house for essential items. One look in the kitchen right now tells me some essential purchasing is in order!

You can ensure you keep a 2m distance from those around you, you can sanitise your hands or even wear gloves while you are out the house, and these are all things that will help to keep you safe. But you have no idea who has been touching the groceries you are about to buy and bring home.

Of course, this is always the case, but in the midst of a global pandemic, it's something we have all been forced to think more carefully about. But what can we do? We cant stop bringing groceries home if this is set to last for months. How do we know we are keeping ourself and our families safe when we restock the essentials?

Doctor Jeffrey VanWingen is a family physician in Michigan, with 20 years experience. Following some research about the properties of the virus we are all attempting to avoid, he put together a video with all the information you need to keep in the know, and some helpful tips on how you can avoid bringing the virus into your house, by adapting his experience using sterile techniques in his medical practice.

Reiterating that the evidence is evolving all the time, he tells us that the virus is known to exist on plastic or stainless steel for 3 days and on cardboard for one hour. With this in mind, his first tip is to try to leave your groceries outside the house for 3 days.

If you're anything like me, you've just immediately dismissed this as completely impractical either due to the fact the groceries are no less essential now than they where when you got them or to the lack of desire to feed the neighbourhood cats and foxes with my week's worth of dinners! But if this is an option for you, logic says it's the best one.

Failing that, you'll want to bring them in so they are available for use when you need them, so he goes on to offer some methods adapted from sterile techniques that you can use to make them as safe as possible. His advise starts in the store, before you have made a single purchase.

At the shop


Im delighted to say that the staff in my local supermarket are doing this now. If you need a trolly, they will get one and clean off the handle for you. If you plan on putting your groceries in the trolly (why on earth wouldn't you be, at this point?) then this doesn't really go far enough, although we appreciate the sentiment.

If you have an alcohol spray of 70% concentration or more, you should spray down the inside of the cart. Alternatively, if you have disinfectant wipes, a thorough going over will also do the job. Try to leave it to air dry. It won't take long and there is a good chance you'll be queueing to get into the shop anyway so you have time.


You might be inclined to pick something up to get a closer look or to read the packaging for nutritional info but please, unless you're going to buy it, don't. If you need to see the nutritional info for allergies or similar, check the store or manufacturer's website before deciding whether to buy. If we all stick to this then we minimise the number of people touching everything so there is less chance you pick something up that has the virus on it, but also less chance you leave the virus on it, if you've managed to pick it up elsewhere.


I'd like to think this goes without saying but there are people who feel it's unavoidable and, for that, we can all help. If you have a respiratory condition, or an immune condition, or are on medication that interferes with either of these, you should stay at home. As should you if you are over the age of 65.

Sadly, there are many among us who don't have that option and may be alone at this time and in need of essentials. It's time to pull together, as a community, to make sure these people are not placed at risk. If you are healthy and in none of these categories, consider reaching out to those who you know are at risk, including relatives and neighbours, to offer them help and the ability to get what they need whilst keeping them out of harms way.

It may not be something you have done before or have considered doing before and nobody is judging here but these are unprecedented times and it's time to step up.


Make a plan for as far into the future as you can about what you will need and what you can reasonably store. There is little value in making a risky trip to the shops if you come home and realise you've forgotten something you urgently need.

Sounds simple, but it'll serve you well

Sounds simple, but it'll serve you well

When you get the groceries home

If you've gone to the effort of getting your goods in the safest way possible, its sensible to continue that safety at home. Assuming you don't have the luxury of leaving things outside for 3 days, here are some steps you can take.


Wash the surfaces down with any standard disinfectant and decide where in the room will be dirty and where will be clean. The dirty area will have everything that has come into the house and, as you sanitise it, it will make its way into the clean area.


There is a greater chance that many people will have have touched the box than will have touched what's inside it so take things out of boxes and dispose of the box. That said, you still need to sanitise what's in the box in most circumstances and the contents of the box stay in the dirty area, till that has happened.

Frozen items are not safe. Heat destabilises the virus but the cold does not. So, if we are talking about a frozen pizza, for example, you should get the plastic wrapped pizza out of the box, throw the box away, and disinfect the plastic wrapper before putting it in the freezer.


Everything that comes out of a box or that just has a plastic, metal, or glass container, needs to be sanitised. The same disinfectant you used to wipe the surfaces will do, but be thorough and when it's done, place each item in the clean area.

It's worth paying particular attention to the areas that you know would be used to pick things up. Bags of produce are more likely to be picked up at the ends so, whilst being thorough all over, absolutely do not neglect these areas.


If you have bought bread, particularly from the bakery, it may come in a paper package and these are very difficult to clean. A good alternative is to open the bread and (without touching it) slide it into a clean Tupperware container. You can do this for any other foods if you would prefer to dispose of the packaging.


We can't use soaps or disinfectants on these items but it doesn't mean we can't use them safely. Tip them into a bowl of warm water to soak, while you deal with the rest of the groceries. Then, when everything else is done, wash your hands, for the recommended 20 seconds with soap, and then rinse off the veg under the tap, rubbing the surface to aid any particles that are there, off.

What do I do with takeaway food?

Thankfully, we know that the virus doesn't do well in heat so, if you have ordered cooked take-out, the food is safe, it's the wrappers we need to deal with. Unwrap the food and dump it on the plate without touching it (your hands are now dirty from the wrappers!) then get rid of the packaging. Wash your hands and you're good to go!

This being the case, choose hot food as we can't be sure sandwiches etc are safe and, if your food has gone cold by the time you get it, blast it in the microwave to heat it up but also to make sure there is no viable virus there before you eat it.

What a pain!

I agree! This is all time consuming and a lot of effort but we are in a situation where we all have a little more time than usual and it's absolutely worthwhile making the effort to keep you and your loved ones safe, while making sure you don't go hungry!

Here is the video, in full, if you'd like a look for yourself. Let us know what you think

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