Is wiping your groceries and takeout part of your coronavirus survival kit?
It may be time to reconsider, experts say, especially if that extra effort adds to your daily stress. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) again points out that there is no real risk of getting the virus that causes Covid-19 in this way.
“We want to assure you that there is currently NO evidence that human or animal food or food packaging is associated with the transmission of # COVID19,” the agency recently tweeted.
Jamie Lloyd-Smith is one of the scientists who worked on the only study to analyze how long SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, could stay on various surfaces.
Despite the fact that his research has revealed that the virus could live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and metal and plastic for two to three days, Lloyd-Smith does not bother to wipe his own groceries or take away.
“I don’t do it personally,” said Lloyd-Wright. “I treat my hands as potentially contaminated while I handle the groceries and unpack them and make sure to wash them properly when I’m done with this process. “
Virologist Dr. John Williams, who has been studying coronaviruses for decades, is also not too concerned.
“Personally, we alternate between cooking food at home and delivering takeout for a house full of kids at the university home right now,” said Williams. “And we don’t wipe the restaurant containers. “
Because the chances of someone arriving and depositing enough virus on a grocery item or take-out container are fairly low, “I see this as some sort of hypothetical risk,” said Lloyd-Smith.
“So yes, I’m careful, I’m going to wash my hands, but I don’t consider this to be radioactive with the virus. “
His opinion could change, said Lloyd-Smith, if the person was at high risk for contracting the virus, such as an elderly or immunocompromised person.
“A reasonable and easy-to-apply precaution for grocery stores that don’t need refrigeration is just to let them sit for a day or more before unpacking them,” he said. “This will significantly reduce the level of any contamination present. “
How did we get so concerned about grocery shopping?
Concern over the transmission of the virus via surfaces began in late March after the study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
“What the study showed is that under certain laboratory conditions, which are obviously artificial, SARS-CoV-2 is detectable for up to three hours in aerosols, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, “said Lloyd-Smith.
The experiment did not take into account other factors that could help inactivate the virus, such as sunlight or disinfectants or examine different levels of virus, said Lloyd-Smith, so there is no of “magic” in the numbers they found.
Food safety expert Benjamin Chapman agreed. “There is no magic number because temperature matters, humidity matters, the amount of virus in it in the first place,” said Chapman, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences at North Carolina. State University.
The amount of SARS-CoV-2 has also decreased fairly quickly over time, for example, a norovirus or a “cruise ship” gut virus, said Williams, who is the head of the pediatric infectious diseases division at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.
In the study, the virus fell “a hundred times on cardboard in eight hours,” said Williams. “This means that 99% of the virus is gone within eight hours, and the same goes for stainless steel and plastic. “
“The cruise ship’s norovirus, however, can persist for several days in an environment on inanimate objects,” added Williams. “So you could go on a cruise and have a norovirus and then your cruise ends and I get on the next cruise in your cabin and I can have your norovirus.” “
Washing your hands is key
If you want to focus on something that makes a vital difference every time, experts say, it is much more important to become a fanatic of hand washing or disinfecting after any potential encounter with a coronavirus.
Instead of worrying about how long the virus persists and spraying or wiping everything with a disinfectant, you can manage this “very unlikely path at low risk and make it even weaker by simply doing a good hand wash “Said Chapman,” or use a hand sanitizer after you get home from the grocery store or take out takeout.
“I don’t want to ignore this conversation or people’s fears, but it’s almost as if it doesn’t matter as long as everyone is washing their hands,” added Chapman.
If you’re still very nervous about your risk of food contamination, definitely use disinfectant wipes on the outside of the containers, Williams said.
“Some people want to wear a belt and suspenders to hold their pants, right? Said Williams.
“So if people are concerned about the transmission of the virus from the grocery store or taking out food, it is enough to carefully remove the inner food containers from the outer bag, discard the outer bag and use a little hand gel or soap and water.
“But still, the chances of getting the virus this way are very, very low,” added Williams.