COVID-19 has now affected the whole world. Nationwide lockdowns, school and enrichment centre closures, social distancing and now… encouraging the public to sanitise our groceries and take-out food? To some, this might seem a little too extreme in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. But not when you are dealing with this respiratory disease that could affect a loved one negatively.
Vulnerable groups such as the elderly, individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and compromised immune systems are at high risk when it comes to the virus.
In Singapore, the confirmed cases count has been increasing rapidly, with 631 confirmed cases and two deaths reported as of 26 March. And the numbers are not letting up despite increased precautionary measures implemented to contain the virus.
It is known that COVID-19 is spread through human-to-human contact, in the form of droplets caused by sneezing or coughing. They could also be spread through the contact with germs left on objects and surfaces—and are able to survive on them for hours, or even days depending on the type of surface.
Food Safety During COVID-19: “Sterile Technique”
With more individuals staying at home during this crucial period, even getting out of our homes can be risky to obtain food—while ensuring its safe consumption.
With 20 years of experience under his belt, Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen MD, a family physician based in Michigan has shared a 15-minute video on his Youtube Channel to help the public tackle this issue, teaching them how to shop and handle food safer.
Food safety during COVID-19: The first most important step is to wipe down the table with standard disinfectant. | Photo: Screengrab from Jeffrey VanWingen / Youtube
VanWingen shares a technique that is often used by medical professionals to reduce risks during surgeries: sterile technique.
He adapts the technique that can be used in grocery shopping and getting take-outs, in efforts to decrease the risk of contracting coronavirus. Here are his tips:
When bringing groceries into the home
- Try to leave your groceries for 3 days in your car, garage, etc. and not bring them into your house
- For deliveries, do not allow them to enter your house. Pick them up only when you need them
When preparing to bring groceries into the home
Supermarkets might be sanitising the racks, but not every canned food, or plastic wrap item. But there are some things within your control:
- Wipe down your cart
- Commit to what you are buying (before picking them up)
- Do not visit the supermarket/shop if you have respiratory symptoms or have been exposed (those above 60 years old should avoid going to the supermarket)
- Plan what you will buy for two weeks
How to clean those groceries after bringing them into the home
Do remember to sanitise your workspace/kitchen table with a standard disinfectant before placing your groceries on them.
Food safety during COVID-19: Divide the table into two, with half of it dedicated for placing of the sanitised items. | Photo: Screengrab from Jeffrey VanWingen / Youtube
In the video, VanWingen divides the table into half, one side with the groceries, and the other side of the table dedicated to the placing of sanitised groceries. Here are further tips:
- Wipe down all plastics (before placing them on your sanitised table)
- Get rid of unnecessary/external packaging
- Soak your fruits in soapy water; individually wash and scrub them for 20 seconds per fruit (just like how you would wash your hands)
- Move items like bread into alternative storage containers—avoid touching the plastic and directly empty them into a clean bowl or container
- You can directly spray sanitising solution on hard packaging such as milk cartons and wipe them down with a cloth
- For food packets like potato chips, you can wipe them down with a cloth saturated with disinfectant
Steps to follow after coming home with take-out food
Always wash your hands before touching and removing your take-out food. Here are some key tips:
- Hold wrapper and keep food free of contact, when placing them on a plate
- Microwave or heat food whenever possible
- Take note of frozen foods as coronavirus species can live in frozen environments for up to 2 years (e.g. frozen pizza)
- For ice cream, use disinfectant and scrub down the container before putting them into the freezer
- For sauces in sachets, you want to get them out without touching the exposed area
- Choose HOT takeout foods whenever possible
And when it comes to take-out food, you might also want to avoid eating them in exposed environments, such as in your car.
We can all do our part through these small, but combined efforts in fighting the coronavirus. Meanwhile, do remember to practice personal hygiene such as scrubbing your hands and coughing into your elbows. Stay safe!
You can watch the video here: