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How to safely grocery shop during the COVID-19 pandemic

Going to the grocery store has become a more frequent activity for many of us as we step up our home-cooking skills. But there are questions surrounding how to best protect yourself and others. UC Davis food virology researcher Erin DiCaprio discussed grocery store do’s and don’ts in a piece for The Conversation. Here’s a quick look at her grocery shopping tips:

Is it ok to touch produce and other products in the store?

Touching items on the shelves is less of a concern than contacting high-touch surfaces. There is currently no evidence of the virus being transmitted by food or food packaging. While studies have shown that the virus can live on plastic for up to 72 hours, this is a controlled laboratory study in which high levels of infectious virus are applied. However, the same studies indicated the those same high levels of infectious virus don’t survive well on surfaces. It’s more important to focus on avoiding high-touch surfaces like door handles and credit card machines, as compared to a tomato in the produce section.

Do I need to sanitize my food when I get home?

No, you don’t need to sanitize your food, and doing so can actually be dangerous. The chemicals and soaps you might use aren’t approved for food use, and we don’t know if they’re even effective. Instead, wash your produce under cool running water and dry it with a clean towel. You also don’t need to wait to unpack your groceries. Instead, just wash your hand after unpacking.

Should I wear gloves in the grocery store?

It’s not recommended that you wear gloves in public, in part because they can help spread germs. Human hands have a lot of microbial, built-in defenses in the skin. COVID-19 can largely survive longer on gloves than it would on hands. In certain circumstances, wearing gloves is advised. For example, if you’re in contact with a surface that is likely infected, you can wear gloves and then take them off when you’re done. Hand washing is still the best coronavirus prevention method.

Should I wear a mask while shopping?

Wearing a mask can help prevent others from becoming ill. You can have COVID-19 and not know it, so wearing a mask can help keep you from spreading the virus if you’re asymptomatic. Following social distancing guidelines is also important while grocery shopping.


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