What should you do with your groceries when you get them home? A month ago, the answer for many people was probably something like, “Put them away.” With coronavirus concerns though, people are wondering how or if they should be cleaning their food.
Sue DeHart reached out to CapRadio. She’s retired and lives in Fair Oaks. She says she had previously rinsed off the veggies when she got them home, but now wonders if that’s enough. After finding a variety of posts, ideas, and suggestions online, she came to us with this question:
“Some things say wipe everything down. Some say soak your produce in a solution of bleach water and other sites say nothing to worry about. So I’d like to know what I should do,” she said.
Ron Fong, president of the California Grocers Association, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have different recommendations for different types of surfaces.
"The CDC has recommended plain old hot water and soap on hard surfaces like cans," Fong said. "For produce, don’t use bleach water. Use regular warm water to wash your produce.”
Fong says you can also use soap and water or a disinfecting wipe to clean the grocery bags, too.
As for exposure and social distancing, DeHart and her husband had already taken to using online shopping before the virus, and then picking up curbside.
”The person who brought the groceries out was wearing gloves and all she had to do was open the trunk and pop everything in the trunk so we really didn’t have any contact,” she said by phone this week.
But she wonders about the possibility of the virus touching any number of things within a store, especially now that she has to return for more groceries.
“I’ve been reading about the number of people who touch things and it’s handled many times and I’ve seen conflicting things online,” she said.
Jennifer Cliff is the Marketing Director for Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. She says for the time being, the store is encouraging new bags for every shopping trip to minimize the risk of someone bringing the virus in, and staff are wiping or spraying almost everything in sight.
"Store support, grocery clerks, front end clerks, everyone pretty much no matter what department you work in is reminded to constantly hand wash,” Cliff said by phone from her office (grocery stores are considered essential according to health agencies locally and statewide). “We’re wiping things down with sanitation spray, wiping the hand carts down after every every transaction, etc. That’s happening pretty much after every transaction as they’re turned back in. It’s a storewide effort.”
She says DeHart is smart to use online services to do her shopping for her, or a store service in which an employee does the shopping. The co-op has a delivery service and is working to roll out that kind of curbside pickup program by the end of the week.
As for the method of payment, CDC says the virus lives on hard surfaces longer than fabric. But that doesn’t mean stores want cash instead of plastic.
“Management has taken the position of trying to reduce cash, trying to reduce that exchange between two individuals. The more we’re not touching other folks’ stuff, the better. That is encouraging people to use credit and debit,” Cliff said. “I’m a habitual user of Apple Pay because that’s just the easiest (way) of not touching anything.”
Some stores, like Ralph’s in Southern California and its parent company Kroger, are going a step further to separate shoppers from employees. Ralph’s has begun erecting plastic barriers similar to sneeze guards at checkouts.
Some stores, like Winco, have signs informing customers that the stores are no longer open 24 hours to give employees time to restock and clean during the overnight hours.
During several trips to the Yuba City Winco, cashiers had wipes next to the register but not all of them were wearing gloves, nor were they wiping down the conveyor belts or the card readers. Also, staff collecting the carts were not wiping down the handles. A Winco store manager referred all questions to the corporate office in Idaho, which did not return calls for comment.
Target released new guidelines this week that follow what Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op already has in place. Target’s website now states an employee will be responsible for cart cleanliness. The stores will add floor decals at the checklanes to encourage social distancing between shoppers in line. It will also clean checklanes on a rotating basis after each use. Stores will also temporarily stop accepting returns and are waiving any fees for paper or plastic store bags. People who bring their own bags in will be asked to bag their own groceries.
Cliff from the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op says she’s proud of the job employees have been doing.
“It’s hard because you can’t see what your enemy is," she said. "It’s pretty much like you have to assume that it’s on everything.”
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