Safe shopping - Let our expert answer your questions about long lines and staying safe during the COVID-19 crisisMarch 17, 20203 min read
These are worrisome times, and as the public takes personal precautions – there are some aspects that may seem out of a person’s personal control.
Shopping is one of these situations. Despite calls for social distancing and staying inside, the reality is Americans will need to venture out to shop, bank and carry on with some aspects of life during this outbreak.
Dr. Felicia Wu is the John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University. In addition, Dr. Wu currently serves as an expert adviser to the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives of the United Nation. She is an expert on food safety and has the answers to some popular questions being put forward by Americans.
Question: Grocery stores are busy, and there are often long lines to get in and at check out. What are the risks?
Dr Wu: No matter what, there are risks associated with going out into locations where many people may gather. The risks are that one could become infected with SARS-Cov-2 by standing near an infected person who is coughing or sneezing (this is the most likely route of transmission), or that one would touch a surface upon which an infected person coughed or sneezed recently.
Question: How can seniors stay safe in this situation and can the risk be substantially reduced for the elderly and other vulnerable people?
Dr Wu: The safest option, if it is possible, is to have more vulnerable individuals (elderly, immunocompromised, chronic heart and lung diseases) ask someone else who is not part of a vulnerable group to do the shopping for them. If that is not possible, then I do think it is a good idea for grocery stores to have dedicated hours that are for more vulnerable populations to shop – ones in which there will be fewer people, and where cleaning can take place beforehand. They need to consider the following: what hours those would be, and are those hours feasible for the elderly and others? Will they give instructions about how far people should stay away from each other? Will they wipe down counters and other surfaces beforehand? All these practices would help reduce risk.
Question: And once home shopping, what to do then?
Dr Wu: At home, the elderly and other vulnerable populations should be careful to thoroughly wash any produce meant to be eaten without cooking. Cooking food thoroughly is an excellent way to reduce risk of foodborne pathogens.
And for those working in retail and in grocery stores?
Question: Are there any sanitary recommendations for those who are cleaning these shopping areas?
Dr Wu: The CDC has helpful resources about effective cleaning agents for coronavirus that includes cleaning, disinfecting, ensuring surfaces are safe, what materials to use and proper prevention at work and at home.
Lastly, to the workers who are cleaning these shopping areas: We are grateful, and along with the recommended cleaning instructions above, these workers should wash their hands carefully beforehand and afterwards to ensure their own safety and the safety of others.
Dr. Felicia Wu is an Expert in food safety, social network analysis, global health, risk assessment, economic models, environmental health risks, public health and has been sought out by national media for her expertise on the topic. She is available to speak with media regarding food safety – simply click on her icon to arrange an interview today.
Felicia Wu John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor
Expert in food safety, social network analysis, global health, risk assessment, economic models, environmental health risks, public health