How to buy groceries safely during the COVID-19 pandemic


Some grocery stores have reportedly introduced the concept of one-way aisles to allow customers – some seen here in Scarborough on March 13, 2020 – to keep the recommended two meters apart.

Tijana Martin / The Globe and Mail

With libraries, parks, theaters and non-essential businesses banned, grocery shopping has become one of the few things Canadians can leave.

But how do you navigate safely through supermarket aisles? What is the best way to pay at checkout? How do you manage your items once at home?

It is important to keep in mind that people are unlikely to get the new coronavirus from food or food packaging because the virus does not survive well on surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States. You are therefore more likely to be infected by fellow buyers than anything you buy.

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The virus most often spreads through respiratory droplets, or by spraying a cough or sneeze, physical contact, like a handshake, and touching something with the virus on it, then touch your eyes, nose or mouth without washing your hands, the public The Health Agency of Canada says. To date, there is no evidence that food is a likely source of the virus, he said.

PHAC recommends using food delivery services or shopping online, if possible. Otherwise, here’s how to take precautions when you go out:

Before leaving the house

Make a shopping list, suggests Jeffrey Farber, professor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph and director of the Canadian Food Safety Research Institute. Planning what to buy allows you to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible to minimize your exposure to others, he says. This is important because even people who do not have symptoms can transmit the virus.

Buy alone if you can. The Quebec government says children can accompany parents to stores if necessary. But as much as possible, they should stay at home.

Navigation in the store

Dr. Farber recommends choosing a grocery store that takes precautions to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. For example, look for stores that have someone at the door that distributes disinfectant wipes for your hands and wipe the handles of the baskets or baskets, he says. (If the stores near you don’t, bring your own disinfectants to use before and after your purchases.)

This week, the British Columbia government released guidelines for grocery stores and retail grocery stores, including the provision of hand sanitizers at dispensers near doors and checkout counters, and the installation of cords, cones or ribbon markers to separate people in lines.

Some grocery stores have reportedly introduced the concept of one-way aisles to allow customers to keep the recommended two meters from each other.

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Since it is possible for people without symptoms to transmit the virus, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam suggests wearing a non-medical mask in situations where it is difficult to keep physical distance from people. others, like at the grocery store. There is no evidence that wearing a mask will protect you, but “this is another way to protect others,” she said at a press conference.

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At the departure counter

BEFORE CHRIST. asks stores to provide clean transport bags for customer purchases, stating that customers should not use their own reusable bags and containers.

If you plan to use a reusable bag, Dr. Farber says you should wash them regularly, even in the absence of a pandemic.

It’s hard to recommend using self-payment or a cashier, he says, because there are several variables to consider. In an automatic payment kiosk, you may be able to keep your distance, but the machines and touch screens may have been manipulated by many other people. Meanwhile, some stores have installed Plexiglas screens between cashiers and customers and are constantly wiping treadmills. Whichever you choose, your risk of infection during a transaction is low, says Dr. Farber.

Using a card with a touchscreen option is the least risky method of payment, as it doesn’t require you to touch anything that is managed by others, he says.

Treat groceries at home

Once you’ve set down your grocery store (preferably on a counter that can be easily disinfected), wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, advises Dr. Farber. Then put away all your groceries and for best practices, he suggests, use a disinfectant to wipe down all the surfaces where you originally placed your groceries. Then wash your hands again with soap and water.

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There’s no need to disinfect each item individually, says Dr. Farber, noting that it can cause excessive anxiety.

“This places a huge burden on the consumer. It really isn’t necessary because if you wash your hands well before and after meals … [the risk] is very, very weak, ”he says.

Dr. Farber also does not recommend using soap and water to wash fruits and vegetables before eating them. Soap, he says, is known to cause vomiting and diarrhea. Instead, simply rinse them thoroughly under cold running water.

Cooking will kill coronaviruses, unlike freezing. But even so, he points out, you are unlikely to get infected with food anyway.

Christopher Mio and Meghan Hoople were unemployed and wanted to help after the isolation of COVID-19 in Toronto. After traveling around their neighborhood with a free offer, they received a surge of support and requests from people in need.

Subscribe to Coronavirus Update Information Bulletin to read the main news, features and explanations of the day on coronaviruses written by Globe reporters.


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