[UPDATE March 28] Safe Grocery Shopping Techniques (Video)

UPDATE March 28:

After doing more research, not all doctors or food professionals agree with the doctor in the video below about how to bring grocery items into your home. Before you go through the elaborate cleaning processes shown by Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen below, we suggest you read what LiveScience has to say on the matter. Particularly note, what the article says about washing fruits and vegetables in soap and water.

It states,

Despite what a doctor in a viral video suggests, it’s not a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables with soap and water, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, food scientists told Live Science.

“We’ve known for 60 years that there are toxicity issues about consuming household dish soaps,” Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, told Live Science. “Drinking dish soap or eating it can lead to nausea, can lead to [an] upset stomach. It’s not a compound that our stomach is really built to deal with.”

Instead, people should wash produce as they normally would, with cold water, Chapman said….”We don’t have any evidence that food or food packaging are transmission vehicles for coronavirus,” Chapman said.

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Original Post:

As we struggle to navigate this new reality of Shelter-in-Place, we are going to share tips we find with you. This doctor from Michigan offers suggestions on how to minimize bringing the novel coronavirus into your home after shopping.

Try to shop no more than once a week. Ideally, shop once every two weeks.

Further Info: (The name of the page where we got the information is first. The name of organization/credentials of the person offering them is second. Finally, is a quote that gives an idea of what to find):

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43 comments

  • Kym, Thanks for all the information and support you provide our community. It helps us stay well-informed and (safely) connected.

    • If folks let me know their needs, I will try and find answers and put up stories that help.

    • Because of the shortage of all types of gloves, he may not have any. We have people bring us groceries and they don’t have gloves. However, we have various types of gloves that we rotate here because the virus can live only so long on gloves. We set aside for at least three days, depending on the glove material. We also wash our hands after touching any plastic, cardboard, paper as we access products for at least three days because the virus can live on plastic for three days and you can’t wear bulky gloves to get all your food. Not everyone has thin plastic gloves. Washing your hands WITH soap, if you still have it, is the best. I have read, and I encourage others to verify, that the soap suds destroy an outer wall of the corona cell, thereby rendering it ineffective. I’m not a scientist, so, as I said, I encourage others to read up on that.

  • Dorene M Kautsky

    He’s not wearing protective gloves. Maybe using the disinfectant wipes is his protection.

  • Let’s be grateful for all the front liners who work in health care, grocery stores, and people like Kym Kemp for all they do to help keep us safe and informed with the truth. These people are all so vital for our communities survival. <3

  • And mind how you handle your mail.

  • Timothy J Wozny

    This was literally me this morning after getting a delivery from Safeway. Glad to know I’m not crazy. 🙂

  • Thank you for this! I was wondering about the plastic bags! Lots of great info! May you stay safe, and God Bless!

    • I’ve heard that the a person could die from touching gas pump handles, as many travelers touch them, and they’re seldom cleaned. Someone suggested that, considering that health-care professionals need all the latex gloves they can get, that we should buy rolls of doggy-doo bags, and wrap them around our hands, while pumping gas.

      I have a better idea. Just spill the last few drops of gas on your hands, light them off, then wave them around in the air, until they go out.

      This will prevent just as many deaths as all of the other ridiculous measures we are taking to stop the spread of what is just another seasonal bug.

      • Steve, this is not just another seasonal bug. At the beginning of March, the US had roughly 70 confirmed cases. Now 27 days later, we have over 86,000 confirmed cases and we haven’t reached the peak.

        Look at the graph below. The Financial Time is doing a great job. This plots number of cases in countries starting when 100 cases were reported. Now, a number of these countries have a lot less population than the US so of course we’re going to have more cases. China, however, has four times our population and less time to prepare. But we’re beating them…(assuming, of course, that numbers reported in both countries are somewhere near accurate–hint: they aren’t. but they are the best we have.)

        • Obviously this virus is highly contagious; way more so than the flu, but the question of mortality is still at issue. As the confirmed cases keep going up the good news is the projected mortality rate is going down. The UK has recently downgraded their projected deaths from 200k to 20k which puts it in line with the flu.

          Also, your graph shows some good news with the curve flattening out in most of the hardest hit places.

          [edit note: not the UK as a whole, rather a British epidemiologist]
          https://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/mar/26/uk-epidemiologist-radically-lowers-his-predicted-c/

        • To keep perspective is important. This is a serious illness and the methods governments are taking to fix it are both serious issues. Both have their lag times- both have their casualties.

          The trouble with Steve Parts comment is that eventually this is likely to be another “seasonal bug” but first it will cut a death swath though human populations. It is likely that everyone- every single person who has any contact with other people- will be exposed to this sooner or later. Those who can throw it off will do ok. Those who can’t, won’t. The real thing we have control over is simply whether the people who can’t do it on their own (of which I am likely numbered) can get medical assistance that might mean they have a better chance. That, until a successful vaccine is developed, all we can do. We do not have the capability of stopping it. Just slowing it. In the end everyone will have to face it no matter what us done.

          The point at which the government actions that slow it down becomes more damaging than the disease is an open question. Isolation mean the things we need like food, medicine, utilities may in turn not get the man power or supplies they need to keep functioning. A grocery store that can’t keep the fridge going because a part to fix it is in another country and the people who ship these things are at home because the bank can’t process paychecks is a possibility. It may not happen in two weeks but longer? It may happen in industry after industry. This too needs thinking about. It not only the disease but the treatment that can kill. The old poem about the failure of the battle because of the loss of a horseshoe nail comes to mind.

          So while Steve Parr’s statement is too – well what it is- it does raise a point that needs some thought. We can’t be so fearful- can’t be made so fearful- of the disease that we do worse damage in attempts to fix it. Balance is needed. And we can’t postpone thinking of that issue because the illness seems to be so much more immediately a threat. The damage done by rigorous stopping of the economy has a lag time too. That part to fix the fridge in the grocery store won’t instantly appear when the fear over the disease recedes. We need to think now about what next steps we take in April.

          • You and are in complete agreement here. We do need to be careful that the cure is worth what we do. But we also have to make sure that we fully understand the possible outcomes if we curtail social isolation. I think some people are writing this off as a bunch of weaklings will die–oh well.

            I have not seen enough research to estimate what will be the effects of 200,000 dying and of 2.2 million dying but the damage will be extensive.

            • But surprisingly fast it is forgotten. My mother was hospitalized in the 1968 flu pandemic and I got sick. 100,000 died in that in the US. (With a much smaller population) By the next year, it was history.

              But this is the first real internet pandemic where we all have a front row seat to see the train coming down the track right at us. We are much more worked up about it and can do many more irrational things in that case. That is why I think a temperate view point is very important. We have had a couple of generations of fairly unstressful existence despite all the complaining and are not good at perspective now. Simply an 80% uncomplicated recovery rate is not the worse we’ve gone through and we need to be more calm. Not stupid but calm. Proportions need to be understood to keep that calm.

  • This is awesome!! All the points I’ve been wondering about were addressed! Passing this on- thank you so much!!

  • He already blew it by touching the cereal box, then immediately touching the cereal bag . ….

    I don’t have the patience for this . I’m just going to bank on the fact that while the virus might remain alive /detectable on those surfaces it has highly diminished infectious activity .

    • We just got groceries and practiced it…dang…it took a long time. I’m not going to pretend there wasn’t some screwups along the way, too. There were some snappy voices and grumpy faces, also. BUT we mostly succeeded.

    • He did blow it by touching the box. I think the lesson is you need to really be careful and not touch the cereal box or your face etc reflexively. Think about what you are doing. This guy seems to know what he’s about, given his occupation. If even he can make a mistake, and make it while recording a video on how to do something safely, what are you doing now? It’s hard, getting new habits. Good luck. I see the Humboldt County totals are starting to rise.

    • He lost me at “take out food!” What the heck? Who cooked that? Why should i think they are virus-free? How long does the virus live on food?

      Aaachhh!!

  • Correction: This story was updated to reflect that SARS-CoV-2 RNA, not live virus, was identified on surfaces in cruise ship cabins up to 17 days after cabins were vacated on the Diamond Princess.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/03/23/cdc-coronavirus-survived-in-princess-cruise-cabins-up-to-17-days-after-passengers-left.html

  • Thank you so much for posting this, Kim.
    I had wondered about all of these things…
    This is a huge help.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    • We did it for the last set of groceries. It was tough, we had a few missteps, but all in all we managed to cut down the odds that something came in.

  • I have gone out twice during this (since January, that is how long we have been in this). I keep only 2 things with me when I shop, my atm card in my front pocket and my keys hung on my pocket, that way I on;y have those 2 things to sterilize and worry about. Leave everything else in the car, the safe zone, phone, wallet, etc. I have a disposable list for each store I discard as I leave. I sterilize the cart at mt car and wait 10 minutes for it to do it’s job, each step of contamination hand sanitize. Go shop, keep distance, don’t talk, do not touch face. Return to car and unload, go strait to front seat decontamination area, hand sanitize first, clean atm card and keys with disinfectant wipe, hand sanitize again also doing face and beard and exposed arms, then I can check my phone, etc. When I get home (I am still hiking in) I take off the outer clothing and leave it in the car, and change to second set. I take only the perishables leaving everything else in the car for 9 days in quarantine, along with the clothes from the day. Hike home, leave the backpack on the porch and take everything off and go strait to the shower before greeting wife and kids. I prepare a big pot of mild bleach water and dump all the perishables into it to soak…how do you wash broccoli with soap? take all the bags outside to quarantine for 9 days. Rinse the perishables and bag in safe bags for the fridge. Sterilize myself again The 25lb bagged whole meat I’ll wipe down with bleach and then age for 4 weeks in a cooler.

    BTW, my wife did all this when she took the kids to the Bay Area for a week to see grandma in Feb, it was the first trip they didn’t bring home any bugs, at Halloween they brought back something like 12.

  • Yep. This is a good article. I have been wondering about food and it’s surfaces for some time now, and not finding many clear answers. One thing I would have not done.. I know paper towels are in short supply.. but I would have used a different paper towel for the counter tops and the groceries.. lol oops. My OCD has gone haywire since this epidemic began! Also, it seems like with paper bags.. the virus only is viable for 24 hours as apposed to plastic for 3 days!

    Personally I get paper, and bring my own bags and bag my groceries in the car then sanitize. I have a cooler for cold stuff anyways. That I sanitize after use. So, I stopped getting plastic bags a long time ago seeming they are an epidemic for sea turtles and whales anyways!

    But one thing I do is to use Yogurt, (only plain no sugar, germs luv sugar!) after washing my hands thoughly, so there is beneficial bacteria occupying the space on my hands instead of allowing disastrous germs to thrive. Kombucha would probably work well too. I plan to make some beneficial kombucha cleaners to spray after cleaning. I also travel with a small bottle of yogurt and water I spray on my hands after sanitizing.

    Also, I change my hand drying towels daily, and use paper towels more often unfortunately. If I am out and dry my hands when I come home, I use paper towels and discard. If I am home and have cleaned and sanitized since Out, I use washable hand towels. Just a thought.

    My better half is severely asthmatic soo… We are super paranoid about getting it. Sounds awful! Someone under twenty died In LA today, and two victims in thier 40’s in California that I know of. I am super worried about the elder population and health care providers! Hope we can kick this bug to the curb as soon as possible so I take measures to be as non infectious as I possibly can be! Stay well out there peeps!

    https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/oct/26/probiotic-bacteria-products-skincare-acne-aging

    https://www.advisory.com/Daily-Briefing/2013/11/20/Hospitals-use-yogurt-to-prevent-infections

  • This video has been remade with significant improvements. This is the link to the new version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k348fKTTpEI&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0Kp-gULEbyeWXsQlwwGnETmkEFWFo3Z_mCOxgcyZL26rUn19pgfisQots

    • @kym, this updated one is a much more accurate video!

      EDIT, oh weird, this is the old one referenced above. The old one is a better job and more accurate.

      The old one has some mis-information. He does a lot better on the new one. It’s hard to do this while talking!

      Although, I’d still use gloves while sterilizing the gloves off and on and also get every part of things- like the bottoms of bottles etc.

      & because cardboard is a hostile surface to the virus partially because it drys it out- I doubt if fruit is like cardboard. Especially if it’s waxed- more like plastic.

      PRINTED cardboard and paper may take a little longer than 24 hours. I generally wait 2 days.

  • Hi kym, what about money?

    • I’ve heard that if possible, use credit cards which can easily be wiped down. Your money should be safe and you could take a plastic bag to put any money received back in change then not touch it for several days.

      • A credit card would need to be wiped before returning to a wallet or pocket. Otherwise it might be a better spreader of virus.

  • So, rather than just wipe down the package, remove stuff from the packaging, thereby increasing the chance of direct contact with the food?

    • He said to do that when the packaging can not take a soaking with disinfectant. Things in plastic he did wipe down.

  • Why is he not protecting his hands when doing all this? Seems to be defeating the purpose..

  • National institute of Health says LONGER with cardboard. There’s definitely conflicting info on how long it survives on surfaces. Personally I go longer to be sure;
    https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/new-coronavirus-stable-hours-surfaces
    & use gloves while shopping and while sterilizing plastic with alcohol. Get every crevice unless I put it somewhere temporarily for 1 to 5 days.

    It’s not clear what kind of cardboard they used in the study, but it tends to die faster on cardboard because it dries out the virus’ outer shell. Cardboard is absorbent. Some PRINTED cardboard and some kinds of paper are slightly LESS absorbent and drying and may take a bit longer. I go 2 days because I’m paranoid and like to sleep at night, but I’ve seen 24 hours mentioned as enough.

    He did a great job with the video, and seems like a very nice caring person with good training, but it is not sterile technique. It is a sanitizing technique.

  • Remember to sterilize the bottoms of your SHOES! Or change them at the door before you go inside. Sterilize your hands if you touch the bottom parts of your shoes while taking them off.

    Not sterilizing shoes is a very very common oversight responsible for nursery contamination when isolating plant material. Same with human pathogens. Pretend the virus cells are spider mites all over your shoes and you are going indoors to a sterile room.

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