Sanitize groceries, discard takeout containers immediately: Doctor demonstrates 'sterile technique'

LOS ANGELES -- Even when practicing necessary social distancing guidelines, shopping at a grocery store or ordering takeout and delivery food can be an anxiety-inducing endeavor for many during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are one of the Americans who has been wondering how to safely handle and store food amid the COVID-19 pandemic, you may benefit from this Michigan doctor's grocery shopping and eating techniques.

In a YouTube video, Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen demonstrated how to purchase and handle food safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"People are moving, and with that movement comes risk," VanWingen said, citing the growing death toll in Italy even after strict lockdown measures were put into effect by the country's government. "We have a dilemma in society that we need to eat to live, but we also need to get that food, but that getting of food is now risky," he said.

VanWingen, a family physician who has practiced for 20 years in Grand Rapids, Michigan, described something known as "sterile technique," a practice that he says physicians like him use to reduce risk while they perform surgeries and conduct other medical tasks so they do not give infections to their patients.

VanWingen said many grocery stores are doing better about keeping things clean, "but they are not sanitizing every canned good and every plastic-wrapped item."

When it comes to grocery shopping, VanWingen said it's not as simple as wiping down the handle of your cart. There are additional measures that shoppers should be taking in the supermarket to prevent spreading or contracting COVID-19.

Grocery shopping safety

    According to VanWingen, the safest method for ensuring that newly purchased or delivered groceries do not have residual COVID-19 contamination is to leave them in the garage or on a porch for three days before bringing them inside a home, but if you need the things you bought immediately, you can clean and disinfect your newly purchased provisions.

    In an update to his video, VanWingen noted that COVID-19 lives on cardboard for one day, citing data from the National Institute of Health.

    Don't assume that the items you've brought home are COVID-19 free just because you can't see the virus on them. VanWingen said it is helpful for consumers to picture their groceries being covered with something visible.

    "Imagine that the groceries that you have are covered with some glitter," VanWingen said. "And your goal at the end of this is to not have any glitter in your house, on your hands, or especially on your face. And imagine that disinfectants and soap, they have the power to dissolve that glitter."

    Grocery cleaning and disinfecting

      Your freezer will not kill coronavirus -- thoroughly disinfect all freezer items before placing them inside
      According to VanWingen, research shows that coronaviruses do not survive well in food if it is hot. There isn't much to worry about in terms of COVID-19 being inside the hot takeout or delivery food you're about to eat, but it could very well be on the outer packaging or containers.

      Takeout and delivery food safety

        VanWingen said the extra careful food handling and disinfecting measures it may seem like a lot of work, but they can keep people from getting sick and potentially sickening others.

        "In these unprecedented times, safety out in the marketplace can literally save lives," VanWingen said.