Covid-19 Pandemic: Do you need to disinfect your groceries?


As announced recently by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the country will continue to be under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) until at least 31 December 2020. A signal to all Malaysians to continue to be cautious as we fight off Covid-19.

While some have already gone back to the stores for their groceries, people tend to worry about the risk of contracting Covid-19 from surfaces touched by others but the real risk is actually from the respiratory droplets you are exposed to when you are out and about buying your groceries. Online grocery shopping remains the safest way for you to get your essential needs for your daily life.

When shopping for groceries in Malaysia, whether you are in Ipoh, Kuching, Kuala Lumpur or Klang, the question remains – “do I still need to disinfect my groceries?”. After all, studies found that the coronavirus can be detected on cardboards for up to 24 hours and up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces. There is absolutely no harm in taking extra precautions and you can help to reduce your exposure to Covid-19 by following these simple steps:

  1. Sanitise your hand

    The basic first step in everything we do today – wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching groceries! It’s the first line of defence against Covid-19 as transmission by hands is one of the most common ways for the virus to spread. Here’s a gentle reminder on how to wash your hands properly:

    Image credit: Ministry of Health

    If you do not have immediate or convenient access to water, use sanitisers that contain at least 60% alcohol. But don’t forget to wash your hands immediately once you have access to water.

  2. Minimise contact

    Most delivery services now provide no-contact delivery option. However, online grocery shopping might not be as straightforward as you will have to double check the items that you ordered once you receive them. In such situations, maintain social distancing with the delivery guys as you go through your groceries even if you are at the comfort of your own home!

    Do not forget to put on your mask to minimise risk of contracting the virus.

  3. Organise your delivery

    Designate an area that is easily accessible and spacious enough to receive your groceries before you take them to your sanitation station. Your front hall or porch should be able to accommodate this function. Prepare boxes or bins of different sizes to pre-sort your groceries – this way you can separate your fresh produce, raw meat and dry goods. If you are the designated family shopper, this is also a great way to quickly sort out the items before delivering them to your family members.

    Make sure the path to your pantry or kitchen is clear of any obstruction so that you can transfer your boxes there easily!

  4. Provide a sanitation station at home

    In the good old days when we did not need to worry about terrifying viruses, we tend to put our groceries on the table or on the floor, sometimes leaving them there for hours. As we do not yet have a vaccine for Covid-19, this is no longer safe, and we must do our best to limit the risk of exposure and protect our loved ones. Setting up a dedicated sanitation station will certainly help to limit the risk of exposure when we receive our online groceries. This way, when the delivery guy arrives, you can straight away quarantine your groceries at a temporary station while you sort and wash your purchases without contaminating other surfaces. If you have small children, remember to keep the station off-limits to them.

    Don’t forget to wash and sanitise the dedicated station after clearing your groceries!

  5. Wash groceries under running water

    For those who want the extra security, rinse your fruits and vegetables under cool running water and scrub the skins and rinds that are not eaten. Dry them with a clean towel. Do NOT wash your food with soap! Dish soaps are not made for consumption. In fact, washing your food with dish soap will only create new problems for you as it might cause nausea and diarrhoea.

    For poultry or meat, it is recommended that you place them straight into the freezer as putting them under the running water might cause splashes of bacteria and viruses to spread onto your hands and the nearby surfaces. This can lead to food poisoning instead as the water droplets can travel more than 50cm in every direction!

    Another safety tip: Store poultry or meat at the bottom of your freezer so that its juices cannot spread or contaminate other food.

  6. Store groceries immediately in the fridge

    A general rule to follow with or without the presence of Covid-19 is to store and refrigerate your perishable items as soon as you get home. Prioritise washing and wiping these items first when you sort your groceries.

    When replenishing your groceries, make sure your fridge is not too full as the food will block the air flow, thus forcing the fridge to work harder or cause uneven temperatures in certain parts of the fridge. Try not to place food against the back or sides of the fridge to maintain a good air flow.

  7. Leave out groceries on the counter

    As mentioned earlier, traces of Covid-19 can be found on surfaces for up to 72 hours. However, the corona virus also starts to lose its infectiousness once it lands on a surface. For dry goods that you ordered online, leave them out for at least 24 hours on your quarantine counter for that extra peace of mind. Here are some of the goods that you do not need to store immediately – pasta, canned food, cereal, soup, jams, honey, coffee beans and many more.

    If you want to be extra, EXTRA careful, wipe the surfaces of the cans, packets and boxes with anti-bacterial wet wipes.

  8. Wash the surfaces

    Always, always, ALWAYS wash and sanitise the surfaces that had contact with the groceries. Pay more attention to your sanitation station and the area used to have your online groceries delivered. Wipe down with sanitisers containing more than 60% alcohol or clean both the station and designated area with water and soap. This basic rule may seem simple, however, it is currently the most effective method in fighting off Covid-19!

    Note: Studies have found that sanitisers with less than 60% alcohol concentration are less effective and they may only reduce the growth of germs or microorganisms, rather than killing them.

  9. Choose trusted sellers

    Finally, order your groceries online from trusted sellers who provide safe and clean grocery delivery services. Food safety should be taken seriously during a pandemic as it is literally a lifeline to the people. The sellers you choose should abide by the Covid-19 SOPs i.e. no-contact delivery, maintaining social distancing, pre-screening of employees, mandatory wearing of masks, as well as washing their hands regularly.

    Malaysia is fortunate enough to have various credible websites and apps to help you get your groceries online conveniently and safely.

    One of them is our very own homegrown platform, cari@unifi, with an array of responsible local sellers providing vegetables, baking ingredients, halal meat, lobsters and many more! Visit cari@unifi’s food section here and shop for your groceries as well as your daily necessities with a peace of mind!

Extra tip: Skip the gloves

Gloves provide a false sense of security against Covid-19. Gloves are not magic shields that protect you from the virus. As soon as you touch a surface, your gloves are already contaminated and the contamination stays on the gloves. People tend to wear gloves in public while shopping and continue to use them to pick up a phone call or touch the groceries. This means the contamination is easily transferred from the gloves to whatever else you touched while wearing them. If you do want to wear gloves, please discard away immediately after use and minimise touching of objects and surfaces.

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