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Should I scrub everything clean when I get home or leave it all outside? Which is the most effective cleaning method? On which surface can the virus that causes COVID-19 survive the longest? Here is a list of dozen or so safety precautions to take, at grocery store and at home.

The Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) states that COVID-19 is primarily spread through human contact, not through food. However, the possibility of an infected person contaminating food surfaces cannot be ruled out. These hygiene measures and organizational tips can help reduce the spread of the virus.

While in the store

  • Plan ahead:  Reduce your trips to the store by shopping for two weeks at a time. If you run out of recipe ideas get the whole family involved in planning the weekly menus!
  • Be organized:  Make a detailed list of everything you need so that you can shop efficiently and quickly.
  • Designated food shopper: Choose one person to do the food shopping.
  • Disinfectant wipes:  It’s a good idea to always have some with you, in the car or in your bag. When you enter a store, clean the cart or basket with one of these sanitizing wipes, even if they are also cleaned by the staff several times a day. I would like to point out, though, that Rachelle Béry always thoroughly cleans its shopping carts and baskets with a sanitizing solution.
  • No needless touching:  Avoid handling produce and other products.  
  • Minimize contact:  Bring your own bags and pay with a bank card to avoid touching items that others have touched.

Once you get home

  • When you get back from the store, have a designated spot for your shopping bags (once you have put all your groceries away, it’s a good idea to clean that surface as well).  
  • Wash hands immediately with warm water and soap for at least twenty seconds. 
  • If you don’t put your groceries away as soon as you get home, designate a decontamination zone for non-perishable items and reusable shopping bags and store them there for three days before
    finally putting them away. (According to Dr Marc-André Langlois, virologist at the University of Ottawa.)
  • If you prefer to dispose of packaging as soon as possible: transfer rice, lentils, pasta, cereal or any other dry goods from their packaging into clean, clearly labelled transparent jars.  
  • If you want to put your groceries away immediately, wipe down all non-perishable items and packaging with disinfectant wipes. Next, dry everything with a clean cloth or paper towel. You can also fill the kitchen sink with water and dish soap, and use a dishcloth to clean containers and packaging (avoid cardboard, of course!). 
  • For fruits and vegetables: according to MAPAQ, it’s not necessary to wash produce with soap, but rinse items thoroughly with running water, using your hands or with a soft brush. 
  • Once groceries have been put away, wash your hands again with soap and water. 
  • Lastly, clean all kitchen surfaces: this is something you should be doing several times a day. 

Three effective cleaning solutions

  • Dish soap remains the best option. 
  • Diluted bleach: you can make this cleaning solution yourself by adding four teaspoons ofbleach to one litre of water. MAPAQ recommends that a new solution be made each day.
  • Hydrogen peroxide and 70% isopropyl alcohol are both able to effectively kill the virus. Spray your whichever disinfectant one you choose, leave on for a minute before wiping dry with a clean cloth. (According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC])

How long can the virus live on various surfaces?

  • It is not yet known exactly how long this coronavirus can live on various surfaces, but it could be anywhere from a few hours to several days depending on the following factors : temperature, surface type and ambient humidity (according to Health Canada)
  • However, the virus has been observed tolast up to 72 hours on stainless steel and plastic, and up to 24 hours on cardboard. (According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.) 
  • And, finally, forget about the freezer! It seems that freezing temperatures have no impact on the virus. On the contrary, it can live for weeks in the refrigerator and years in the freezer! (From Normand Voyer, Chemist and Professor of Chemistry at Université Laval.