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'Not necessary' to disinfect outside of food packaging after buying, shoppers advised

Dr Linda Gordon, a specialist in microbiology, said there is “no evidence” the virus is transmitted by food or food packaging.

Image: Shutterstock/dreii

SHOPPERS ARE BEING advised that it is not necessary to disinfect the outside of food packaging after buying it in the supermarket, a specialist in microbiology at Safefood has said. 

Safefood is the public body in charge of consumer awareness about food safety and healthy eating across Ireland. 

Dr Linda Gordon, chief specialist in microbiology with the body, said it’s not necessary to sanitise the outside of food packaging as there is “no current evidence” the virus can be transmitted this way. 

“The main risk of transmission is from close contact with infected people. Our advice is to maintain good hygiene habits and to wash your hands regularly and to follow current public health guidelines re social distancing,” Gordon said. 

Currently, there is no evidence that Covid-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices when handling or preparing foods.

“You should always wash your hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature and put food in the fridge as soon as you can.”

Gordon said people should always wash their hands after handling any food packaging and before preparing food. 

It is also advisable to wash your hands before going food shopping and as soon as you return home, and again after you unpack the shopping. 

March was the biggest month of grocery sales ever recorded in Ireland, according to recent figures. 

The latest Kantar Worldpanel supermarket shares show that grocery sales reached €2.8 billion in the first 12 weeks of this year– topping last year by €250 million and exceeding the previous peak seen at Christmas 2019.  

The average household spent an additional €122 on groceries during the four weeks to 22 March, largely driven by shoppers making bigger trips.

As many people are spending more time cooking at home than usual, Dr Gordon advised putting any leftovers in the fridge within two hours for safety. To cool the food more quickly, divide it into smaller portions. 

“Remember that cooked rice is high-risk and must be cooled and put in the fridge within one hour. Any leftovers properly stored should be eaten with three days but if you’re in any doubt, throw it out into your brown bin,” she said.  

Safefood also said it is “not essential” to wash shopping bags after each use. However, anyone who prefers to do this is advised to wash fabric bags at 60 degrees Celsius or use a sanitiser on other shopping bags. 

The safety watchdog also reminded that gloves need to be changed “very frequently to be effective.” 

“It’s better to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face,” it said. 

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