Avoiding infection from food & grocery deliveries

Any tips on how you wash your groceries and boxed items?

We purchased a lot of disinfectant. Our strategy is groceries we don’t plan to use for 3-4 days stay in the garage.

We use the ER doc’s divided clean/dirty table method.

For non-produce items that come into the house that day, anything (like cereal) comes out of the exterior cardboard box and the cardboard box gets tossed.

Anything encased in plastic or laminated cardboard (like milk cartons), gets a good spray and is left to dry for 15 minutes before being brought into the house.

Produce is soaked for 30 min in a solution of grapefruit seed extract (GSE, not yet tested for COVID-19, but effective against other recent viruses), dried and placed in refrigerator or other storage area. Coronaviruses are known to survive in refrigerators and freezers.

We have it down to a science and we get a pretty large load done in 15-20 minutes. Key is to organize and spray first. Mise en place. By the time you’re done, the groceries needing to come inside are dry and disinfected.

Hope that helps.


Going to the extreme of keeping things outside the house is using good caution. :+1:

This grapefruit seed extract tip sounds smart. Thanks for the new tip. I’ve been using soap water.

His habit of dumping out of boxes seems a good idea. Although I didn’t like at 8 minutes 40 secs, he lets the package touch the inside of the container. He announces the plastic vegetable bags as dirty, but immediately puts his hands in the water. If this is the bare minimum we need to be safe, I think most of us are good :sweat_smile:

Although groceries get priority, first thing I do is to carefully make sure clothes don’t touch anything, and goes into laundry area. Same for wallet and keys which get sanitized immediately.

Something I’ve been unclear about are people suggesting the ‘respiratory droplets’ are not spread through food. If you eat foods with pepper and sneeze, don’t you inhale things? If you swallow wrong, and it “goes down the wrong pipe”, doesn’t it end up in your lungs?

If it is cooked food the heat will kill the virus. If food which isn’t cooked, sushi etc. is correctly handled I think the risk relatively small but obviously you never know for sure if somebody asymptomatic breathed on it.

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It certainly won’t do any harm to be extremely cautious, but SARS-CoV-2 isn’t plutonium.


Hmmn, reading all this is making me feel like I used to feel pre-pandemic when I would read people’s accounts of their fitness routines (wake up at 5:00 a.m., head to the gym for a high-intensity workout; make myself a cucumber smoothie; get in my hour of cardio . . .) and compare it to my life of sloth and question whether I was living my best life.

My pandemic routine is receive packages or delivery bags on my doorstep. If they don’t contain perishables, kick them indoors with my feet and leave them by the door for 3 days by which time I assume all the pathogens will have died (including the pathogens that may have infiltrated my floors). If perishables are involved, try to remember to put on a pair of gloves as I take the package to the kitchen. Gingerly remove perishable and put in fridge or freezer and try to leave for three days before touching again, believing again that the pathogen will be dead by 72 hours. Throw out glove and wash my hands.

Sigh, hoping to stay well, although at this point since I was really sick at the end of February, I’m not completely convinced that I haven’t already had COVID-19, although, on the other hand, I don’t want to find out that my February-early March illness was only the flu.


No real consensus. WHO says “few hours or up to several days”; CDC: “… because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.”

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day use a tissue to cover your coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging container, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.

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Thanks @robert for splitting the topic.

@Omotesando Some of my neighbors actually leave the bags outside the door for days. If you’re this careful in moving things into the refrigerator, putting an additional bag over top of the perishables package might give extra confidence, one that has been sprayed with alcohol on the inside. Prevent it from floating around in the air, inside your fridge. Or maybe just pre-wash, and spray the packages that sit by your door. Rather than chance 72 hours grace period, might be better to take matters into your own hands and sanitize it.
Your suggestion in the last sentence, is that by catching it once and recovering, you are now immune to getting it again? I am also unclear how that works.

@thegforceny I’ve heard stories where it can live weeks in specific conditions.
Taking no chances, everything gets washed in soap water in my house. Objects that can’t get wet are given a spray of alcohol, further wiped with disinfectant wipes. Can’t do much if it floats however.
The WHO and CDC are still coming to new conclusions everyday. I wouldn’t be surprised if this statement is changed drastically with more findings. Rather than be at ease hearing there’s no evidence or what is “thought” to be how it spreads, I rather side with caution.
I’ve seen this statement that there’s no evidence it is transmitted by food, but it seems to refer to only swallowing food. They don’t cover smelling particles that got on its surface, like how I mentioned pepper chokes you. I assume the droplets are just as easy to breathe in, if you can smell or inhale food.
At this point, I don’t really believe eating a raw vegetable that has the virus on its surface is 100% safe. The problem I see here, is this kind of leeway lets people get lazy, and allow them to be careless. I’ve seen people in public eating a sandwich with their bare hands, probably believing it’s not spread by food.

Former head of CDC validates my three day rule. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/04/09/coronavirus-doctors-tips-handling-mail-groceries-column/2966267001/

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Thanks for sharing your routine, Omotesando!
I started doing the same thing yesterday. The info about virus staying on groceries only for 72 hours seems to be a little controversy (saw somewhere, that it’s still active after 7 days), but still I do this. Better be safe than sorry.

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I made my first grocery run in two weeks yesterday, and spent time sponging off packages and washing produce with mild soap and water. I then proceeded to use the sponge to wash my dishes and counters, which I didn’t think about until later :unamused: I swapped sponges today and will use the grocery sponge for groceries alone next time, which will hopefully be no sooner than two weeks from now. As for mail, I just toss the packaging after opening and wash my hands, which I hope works well enough.

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DH has been doing all the shopping for our household, but he has only gone a few times since this whole thing started, mostly because we run out of milk and eggs. With 2 teenagers, we go through milk pretty quickly and we can’t stock up much due to purchasing limits. We haven’t been using our reusable bags so we get the plastic bags, empty them and they go right outside to the recycling bin. The incoming grocery bags come in and go on the floor just inside the front door. We set up a small folding table there, so we take each item out of the bag, wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe, and place it on the table. From the table, it gets put away. Bags go straight outside, and table and floor are wiped down with a wipe.

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There is often not clear differentiation in non-scientific articles between detectable “active” virus and virus RNA. Virus RNA can often be detected for much longer time but those can’t infect people like “active” virus


It’s clear from virus clusters and contact tracing that SARS-CoV-2 has been spreading by direct or prolonged contact with infected individuals. If it were being spread by surfaces we’d have seen different patterns, such as clusters of people who use the same elevator.

Not that you want to be cavalier about surfaces, but clearly it doesn’t take mush effort to reach the point of diminishing returns.

Sam Dooley was not quite the head of the CDC, he was the Associate Director for Science-Program Integration, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. His position is the same as mine: it won’t do any harm to be extra-cautious.

Most people who get infected won’t do so by handling mail-order packages, mail, or groceries. Most infections happen when people get close to or touch other people who may be infected, or when they touch surfaces or objects that were touched by people who were infected with the virus. …

When you arrive home, place the groceries on a table, another surface, or the floor. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. The likelihood that any of the items you’ve brought home has infectious virus on it is very low, so you probably don’t need to sanitize them. If you want to be as sure as possible, and don’t need to use dry goods right away, you could leave them for three days before putting them away. But refrigerator and freezer items can’t wait; they have to be stored away.

And then you wash your hands, right?

Everyone should do what they think is best for themselves as there are unknowns about this virus, however, regarding refrigeration and freezing and waiting three days, the three day rule may not apply. This is why everything gets disinfected before it goes into our refrigerator and freezer:

"A 2010study used two viruses that are related to the COVID-19 virus to look at the effects of temperature and humidity on viral survival. Researchers found that both lower temperatures and lower humidity helped viruses survive longer. In particular, at 4 degrees C, or 40 degrees F, and 20% relative humidity, more than two thirds of the viruses survived for 28 days. On the other end of the spectrum, at 40 degrees C, or 104 degrees F, and 80% humidity, the viruses survived for less than 6 hours.

This suggests that coronaviruses survive better on surfaces at colder temperatures. It is alsoexpected that the virus would survive being frozen."

Source: https://covid19.nj.gov/faqs/coronavirus-information/about-novel-coronavirus-2019/will-the-coronavirus-survive-in-the-refrigerator-or-freezer

Hope everyone is staying healthy & safe!

thanks @honkman for this bit of information. I have had trouble clarifying this. It sounds like even if you have the non-active virus on your things, you’re fairly safe.

@Omotesando @chewchow my main concern with the fridge would be letting things float in there and get on other objects that are being used. I am not entirely clear on the science of this. A hearty dose of soap in water has become my grocery routine.

I was informed today by my friend in Pasadena that her neighbor caught the virus. The only place he went outside the house was the supermarket. I think I should be more careful going to Ralph’s or Whole Foods this week.

It’s clear from virus distribution patterns that food is not a significant vector. It’s mostly if not entirely person to person.

I’m dubious that the six-foot rule will work if you stand in a line between the same two people for a long time. Anyway I’m not going to do get in the three-block-long line for Berkeley Bowl.

I’m much happier with delivery or prepaid, no-contact pickup. I went to four places to pick stuff up this afternoon: two restaurants, a butcher that normally sells only to restaurants, and my CSA box pickup. Two places they put the stuff in my trunk. The closest I got to another person was six feet, in a line outside, in a stiff breeze, and I didn’t get within 12 feet of the butcher who got me my box. Everything was packed by industry employees, who are way more trustworthy than gig workers when it comes to hygiene.

Unless you think it best to ignore health officer orders, CDC recommendations, and so on. You want to do more, that’s your business.

Don’t wash your produce with soap.

Try Grapefruit Seed Extract