You should wash food after buying it from the supermarket

·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·5-min read
asian local woman buy vegetables and fruits in supermarket touches them demonstrating need to disinfect amid coronavirus pandemic
When it comes to groceries, giving everything a thorough wipe down is as important as washing your hands. Photo: Getty Images

While it has never been made more clear that we should all be washing our hands any time we come into contact with the outside world, when it comes to your groceries, it can be a little hard to know what we should be doing to avoid the virus.

Take it from the woman who washed her avocado with soap and detergent two days ago – the uncertainty is real.

The good news is there are clear guidelines around how to approach groceries picked up from public supermarkets safely, and yes you should be washing or wiping down pretty much everything you’re buying, but no you should not take a soapy scrubber to your poor avocados.

“Extra care should be taken with hygiene and health to reduce the risk,” the Food Standards of Australia and New Zealand (FDANZ) advises on their COVID-19 information page.

A study by scientists from the National Institutes of Health in the US used a nebuliser device to expel the virus into the air and found “viable” Covid-19 virus could be detected up to three hours later in the air, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

This means anything that has been sitting on shelves could be a risk on a surface level.

The good news is the Food Standards of Australia and New Zealand (FDANZ) has found no evidence that the virus can spread through food. As long as you are properly washing and wiping, so far as we know, your food is a safe, virus-free zone.

“Transmission through food is unlikely and so far there is no evidence that people have become infected by swallowing the virus in or on food or drink,” official advice on their website reads.

Here is how you should be approaching your groceries, be they fresh produce, meat, tins or even items like a roll of cling-wrap.

Fresh produce

Young woman picking up tomato at grocery store or supermarket against coronavirus precautions
Fresh produce should be thoroughly washed. Photo: Getty Images

It goes without saying that hands should be sanitised after a trip to the supermarket, and where possible food should be as well.

Fresh produce should be thoroughly washed in a sink with water before being cooked or consumed – you can’t be sure that your potatoes weren’t picked up by someone else before you.

If using a brush on spuds or harder veggies, wash the brush with soap between each item.

So far the advice does not include using soap on fresh produce, as it can be harmful to consume.

Packaged items

woman handles toilet paper in the supermarket as COVID-19 sells out the item
Items that come in packaging should be wiped down. Photo: Getty Images

While the contents of any packaged goods are considered safe from infection, handling the packaging itself should be done with care.

Wiping down packaged items with an antibacterial wipe or spray may feel a little over the top, but it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the virus.

Disinfect packaging before putting it away in the pantry, or if possible remove the packaging altogether, discard it and then wash your hands thoroughly.


Barista holds takeaway coffee posing coronavirus transmission risk
A smiling barista holding out a takeaway coffee towards the camera. Selective focus, with focus on the disposable cup.

Takeaway food and drink itself is considered safe, but again, packaging handled by multiple people should be discarded or disinfected.

If supporting your local cafe with a takeaway option, apart from observing all the preventative social distancing measures outlined, the packaging calls for some extra steps as well.

Your takeaway coffee’s lid should be binned, the cup wiped down and your hands washed to stay on the safe side.

For food, transferring it to a plate, discarding the container and washing your hands are your safest bet.


Portrait of butcher holding steak in butchers shop
Handling meat should be done with gloves. Photo: Getty Images

Any meat in packaging should be treated the same as all packaged good, but meat from the butcher is a little different.

Ensure your butcher is wearing gloves when handling your meat, and wipe down plastic bags of meat once home.

It’s also important to cook your meat thoroughly.

“The viruses can be destroyed by heat (e.g. cooking), common detergents and sanitisers,” Food Standards advises.

Keeping calm amid the chaos

With the virus impacting virtually every facet of life, it can easily become overwhelming to think about how best to minimise your risk.

One psychologist tells Yahoo Lifestyle it’s important to prioritise our mental health, as isolation can become a perfect breeding ground for anxiety and depression.

“During the last few weeks, it’s been hard to do anything other than worry,” Psychologist Dr Amantha Imber says. “Worry about ourselves, our family and friends, our work, and the world. And worrying, of course, makes us stressed and anxious.”

She says to make sure you draw the line between the smart thing and the obsessive thing.

“Be mindful of your motivation for doing things - some things make good logical sense, but if you are doing things out of a need to feel an artificial sense of control, pause and try to do something more constructive,” she says.

Thankfully, the Australian Psychological Society has shared guidelines to help manage stress and mental health during this time of isolation, including staying connected, avoiding difficult situations and creating a structure to our days.

It can be good to keep yourself smiling, with several hilarious online memes designed to alleviate some of your coronavirus stress.

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