Worried about catching COVID-19 from your groceries? Practice good hygiene, experts say
MONTREAL -- As health officials provide safety measures to curb the possibility of catching COVID-19, many people have begun to self-isolate or, at the very least, practice social distancing.
But people have to eat, and those who haven’t stockpiled groceries are still venturing to the store every few days to collect food. Stores have begun implementing added measures to limit the spread of the virus, such as routinely disinfecting high-touch surfaces and, in some cases, wearing gloves.
But what about the products themselves, which are frequently touched by many? Should we be worried about bringing them home?
“There are of course studies looking at how long the virus lasts on plastic or glass or copper or cardboard, and I’m not going to pretend I know the exact number for every surface,” said Dr. Marcel Behr, interim director of the McGill Infectious Diseases Division, on a special webinar with McGill health experts on Thursday. “I think the more pragmatic question is ‘If I go to the grocery store and come home, do I have to disinfect the outside of every Cheerios box?’”
Behr, like other health experts, reminds us of the importance of practicing good hygiene in all realms of daily life.
“The answer is: Go to the grocery store, wash your hands, take things out, wash your hands again,” Behr said. “Remember when you’re preparing your meal, you should use all the good hygiene for all of the things in there. If you’re going to be handling eggs, this is a time to remind yourself to wash your hands after cracking an egg.”
Behr explained that aside from COVID-19, we are regularly exposed different microbes, which is why food hygiene is important. “This is the time to make sure you don’t use the same bread board for the chicken as you use for the salad,” he said.
The webinar was hosted by Derek Cassoff, McGill University’s managing director of communications. Titled “Confronting COVID-19: a special webcast with McGill experts,” the hour-long video was designed to answer questions from the public.
Cassoff asked Behr and Dr. Timothy Evans, the inaugural director and associate dean of the School of Population and Global health at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine, whether they think the global pandemic will have lasting impacts on how we practice hygiene.
“As somebody who’s suffering from short term memory deficit increasingly, I’m quite sure we’ll have to reinforce these messages continually and over time,” Evans said. “The benefit of this goes far beyond COVID, and I think it is right, there will be some lasting effect but we will have to continually reinforce these sorts of behaviours just because they often get forgotten two or three years, or some period of time after the scare.”
Evans, like Behr, said another upside to good hygiene in a time of a global pandemic is limiting the spread of other pathogens.
“I think it’s the right direction, but I can’t imagine that we’re going to put public officials out of work in terms of infection hygiene.”