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Should you disinfect your groceries?



There is an article that has been circulating on social media for some time now that advises people to disinfect or wash with soap and water their groceries because the virus can survive up to days on surfaces. Thus, if an infected person is in a grocery store and coughs or sneezes into some grocery items, you could get infected if you touch or buy any of the items and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes within three days. The article further suggests that you need not disinfect unperishable items, you could simply leave them in your garage or some place outside the house for three days, i.e., until the virus has died.

The advice is likely a case of stretching the truth too far. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was detectable on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours, and on cardboard for up to 24 hours. But being detectable is different from being infective. We know that the virus is slowly inactivated at room temperature, with a half-life of about eight hours, which implies the virus has a rather short infective period after leaving an infected person. In any case, to date, there has been no established case of transmission of the virus by handling grocery items. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 is spreading through food at all. Not through take-out orders, groceries, or produce. The virus spreads mainly from person-to-person—by close contact (as in about six feet) or through droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. As WHO says, it is also possible to get the disease if you touch a surface or object that has the virus on it and then you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, but this is not a major cause of the spread of the virus.

The biggest risk when it comes to Covid-19 and groceries is coming into close contact with another person who has the virus. That’s why it’s important to stay at least six feet from other people at all times.

How do you then protect yourself from getting the disease, although largely hypothetical at this time, from surfaces of grocery items that have just been coughed or sneezed on by a Covid-19 positive person?

• Many grocery stores are offering hand sanitizers at the entrance, take advantage of this.

• Avoid touching too many items in the grocery, make a list of what you want to buy, and move quickly through the store in picking up the items on your list.

• Do not touch your face, nose, mouth, or eyes while you’re in the store.

• After you check out, wash your hands with soap or water, or use a hand sanitizer again.

• When you get home, sanitize or wash your hands with soap and water again after unpacking your groceries, but there is no reason to disinfect your groceries.

• Every time you sit down to eat, you and your family members should sanitize or wash your hands. Washing hands with soap and water before eating is a key element of good personal hygiene that we should all practice with or without Covid-19. Incidentally, do not wash fresh produce with soap. Soap in food can cause gastrointestinal upset—nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea—when ingested. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables in cold water instead. Neither should you disinfect your groceries with chemicals like household cleaners. Most are toxic when ingested.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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