Is there a need to disinfect groceries? WHO says no

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In the battle against the coronavirus, everyone is taking extra steps to disinfect what they can. Previously, we wrote about some tips on how to disinfect your clothes, your home and how to wash your reusable masks.

Another concern that people may have is: do we need to disinfect our groceries? After all, people are still going out to supermarkets to do their shopping.

While we see many innovative ideas online on 'sterilising' your groceries – from soaking fruits in soapy water to leaving groceries in the car for three days, the World Health Organisation (WHO) begs to differ.

On April 7, WHO and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) released an Interim Guidance regarding food safety in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It stated, "it is highly unlikely that people can contract Covid-19 from food or food packaging."

In fact, the main transmission of the virus is actually through person-to-person or contact with virus droplets.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's Covid-19 team's Technical Head, also noted that while the virus cannot be transmitted through food, we should take care to wash vegetables and fruits with water for hygiene purposes.

Here are some pointers from the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) on how to keep your food safe and clean:

1. Clean and wash everything

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  • Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling food
  • Wash kitchen utensils and countertops with hot soapy water after each food item preparation
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables with clean water
  • Clean lids of canned goods before opening

2. Separate raw meats from cooked/ready-to-eat foods

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  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood in your shopping cart, grocery bag and fridge
  • Use different cutting boards and plates for raw and ready-to-eat foods
  • Don't reuse marinades used on raw meat unless you boil them first

3. Cook at the right temperatures

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  • Cook meats at 70 deg C or higher to kill germs
  • Cook eggs until yolk and white are firm
  • If using a microwave oven, cover the food, mix and rotate for even cooking
  • When reheating sauces or soup, bring it to a boil

4. Chill food properly

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  • Freezer temperature should be -18 deg C and below
  • Avoid overcrowding of food in the fridge
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing
  • Avoid thawing food at room temperature on countertops; defrost in the fridge, cold water or microwave instead

Going back to our question of whether we need to disinfect our groceries – the answer is no. There is also the risk of food or chemical poisoning if the disinfection process is done incorrectly.

So, our best bet is to maintain good hygiene while handling food and to clean up the kitchen properly after!

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.