Coronavirus: Should you worry about sanitizing groceries? What one expert says

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey — A professor in New Jersey is separating fact from fiction when it comes to the safety of grocery shopping and delivery during the coronavirus pandemic.

As we are all cooking and eating at home so much more now, should we be sanitizing every container that comes into our house?

Professor Don Schaffner teaches food microbiology at Rutgers University.

“As far as we know, the virus is not transmitted by food,” Schaffner said. “It’s not necessary to sanitize everything.”

In other words, instead of wiping down your bag of cookies, go ahead and dunk them in milk, but just wash your hands first

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“I’m not really worried about baked goods being contaminated. I’m much more worried about the person standing next to me sneezing or coughing,” Schaffner said.

What about fruits and vegetables in the open that could have been touched by multiple people?

“All you really need to do is rinse it in cold water,” Schaffner said. “They may have dirt, insects on them.”

Some internet sites suggest washing produce with soap, but Schaffner said that’s not a good idea because soap is designed for use on hands and dishes.

“It can cause nausea, vomiting and even diarrhea,” Schaffner said.

He said it’s not necessary to wipe down and sanitize everything.

For meat, Schaffner does recommend double bagging, but that’s not because of COVID-19.

“We do know meat packaging can be contaminated with foodborne pathogens, that hasn’t changed,” he said.

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He also said there are no documented cases of coronavirus from plastic bags.

So to underscore the professor’s point, shoppers need not fear their food.

Instead of washing your ice cream, wash your hands and practice social distancing. Right now, all the evidence shows COVID-19 is spread is people to people — not through your bag of potato chips.

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