Grocery shopping bag

Grocery shopping during a global pandemic

Virologist explains why consumers shouldn’t fear the grocery store amidst the COVID-19 outbreak

March 18, 2020

As states continue issuing quarantine guidelines and rumors swirl about lockdowns, many people are stocking up on food and other essentials. But during a global outbreak, how safe is the grocery store? People are left in a catch-22 knowing that if they don’t venture to the supermarket they could be left without food, while also fearing contracting coronavirus while shopping. Virologist Matthew Moorefood science, debunks myths about grocery shopping amidst the coronavirus pandemic in a recent article published on The Hill.   


From 'Can I shop for groceries safely during the coronavirus pandemic?'

Can I get the coronavirus from exposed food? Should I just be hoarding canned food to stay safe? Matthew Moore, a virologist in the UMass food science department, is here to reassure you. 

“It’s possible,” he allows, “but in terms of the majority of infections and in terms of risk ... it is unlikely.”  

Moore points out that the coronavirus is not made to survive in an environment for a long period of time. Most research suggests coronaviruses survive on surfaces if not treated with a disinfectant for about four to five days. 

This is due to the structure of the coronavirus: It has a lipid envelope. This is a membrane made up of lipids that surrounds the coronavirus particle. 

This is good news; viruses with a lipid envelope are not as “environmentally stable” as those with protein capsids, and therefore they tend to be easier to kill and will not necessarily transmit themselves environmentally. 

So, if a person walks into a supermarket, they are putting themselves at potential risk if they run into somebody in the supermarket who is infected with the virus. But it is significantly less likely that it will be contracted from food or surfaces with the proper precautions.  

To best reduce the risk of a COVID-19 infection, Moore recommends using hand sanitizer and washing your hands, in accordance with the U.S. CDC guidelines.  

His bottom line advice: Exercise “serious concern and precaution, but not panic. 

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