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17 Most Dangerous Things You Should Never Do In the Grocery Store

And they're all easy to avoid, too.

Going to the grocery store is essential, but during the coronavirus pandemic, it has been a rather nerve-wracking experience. Especially when you have no idea if the safety precautions you're taking at the grocery store are even working or not, or if you feel like you're making all the wrong mistakes while walking down the aisles. But do not fret—we rounded up a few bad habits that you can easily avoid at the grocery store, as the world is still living through the pandemic.

This way, you can feel confident about keeping yourself—and those around you—safe and healthy.

Not wearing a mask.

Two women in a medical mask enter a modern grocery market, a store. Coronavirus protection, quarantine, self-isolation.

It may not seem like that mask is doing much and you might be over it by now, but if you look at how far a cough can travel, it's absolutely worth wearing one. The CDC recommends for people to wear a cloth covering in public places, which definitely includes the grocery store. So do yourself and other shoppers a huge favor by keeping that mask on. And so you're up-to-date on your local supermarkets' policies, be sure to check out 11 Major Grocery Chains Where You Need to Wear a Mask.

Not wiping down your cart.

Man wearing disposable medical face mask wipes the shopping cart handle with a disinfecting cloth in supermarket

Did you know that the grocery cart handle is one of the germiest spots of the grocery store? It's true! According to a study done by, out of all the bacteria on that shopping cart handle, an average of 75 percent of gram-negative rods. These are harmful bacteria that tend to be resistant to antibodies. The best way to avoid the spread of any germs or virus is to wipe down that grocery cart (or basket) before you begin shopping. So make sure to wipe that handle down before even entering the store.

Touching the produce.

Woman holding lettuce and grabbing more produce at the grocery store

We know you just want to find the perfect avocado…but think about it. If you're constantly touching other produce and putting it back, then other customers are doing the same, who knows how many germs are on that avocado by the time the customer pays for that particular fruit or vegetable. Instead, use your eyes instead of your hands to scope out the best avocado and only grab the one you intend on buying.

Touching your phone.

grocery list

Studies have shown that your phone's touch screen can be a breeding place for germs, and during the pandemic, it's no different. If numerous people use their phones when looking at virtual grocery lists, that means sanitizing your hands is absolutely pointless since you're picking up those germs again on your phone. It may be smart to go to good 'ol pen and paper grocery lists at the store instead.

Shopping for a ton of food at once.

Shopping list

Making a list is a great way to stay on track, but if your plan is to go into the store and stock up massively on everything to avoid having to go to the store more often, this can backfire. See, the more items you're buying, the longer you'll be in the store. And if you're spending more time shopping, you could be actually increasing your risk of being exposed to someone who could be sick. A risky chain reaction!

Paying with cash.

cash transaction

Your phone isn't the only germy thing in your bag! Another item that typically holds numerous germs is your cash. It may not seem like it, but the cash in your wallet can actually host a myriad of diseases. Paying with card is much safer, and for even more safety, trying using a non-contact paying method like Apple Pay, since it's the safest way to pay for groceries right now.

Touching the credit card keypad.


Paying with a credit card might just be your best bet, but there is one issue: the keypad buttons. Think about how many people are touching these and if it's not getting cleaned properly, it can be a breeding ground for germs. If you happen to have disinfectant wipes on hand, break one out to wipe the buttons but if not, a clean tissue is OK to use too. Just be sure to throw it away after you use it.

Not washing your produce bags.

reusable grocery bag with fruits veggies spilling out

Did you know that one study actually found the average reusable grocery bag to carry coliform bacteria and E.Coli? It's true, and it's easily avoidable. Between every grocery store trip it's important to run your bags through the washer so you can not only avoid the spread of any virus, but prevent any food contamination to happen with your groceries.

Touching germy spots.

Frozen food aisle

How many times have you leaned against those bumpers in the freezer section to grab something? Well, if you think about all of the other customers that are doing that, then it's no wonder that those bumpers are considered one of the germiest spots in the grocery store. You can easily stop making these grocery store mistakes by avoiding those germy hot spots in the store—like refrigerator doors and self-checkout stations.

Touching your face.

woman shopping in surgical mask at grocery store
Shutterstock/eldar nurkovic

Even if you're just adjusting your mask, that still counts as touching your face. It's the one thing you want to try your hardest not to do while you're shopping, as it's the easiest way to stay safe and protect others.

Lingering too long near the cash register.


Believe it or not, but the cash register is, well, likely the most hazardous place in the supermarket. It's where you spend the most time as you're waiting to pay for all your items and you're interacting with the cashier and possibly other customers who are waiting to pay, too. It's a hot spot, as everyone who is buying something has to stop through before they can exit, so you'll want to do all you can to spend as little time as you can there.

Listening to music.

grocery shopping headphones

Even though listening to music might be soothing, when you're grocery shopping during a time like right now, you're going to want to give it your complete attention. So that means your headphones blasting music is a no-go as you won't be able to hear other people around you and if someone is walking behind you and you don't want to be bumping into anyone if you can avoid it.

Not shopping alone.

shopping with family

Sorry, but if you can, it's best to leave the family at home for the time being. You don't want to put everyone in your family at risk and especially if you have small children, you don't want to have to worry if they end up touching items you're not buying.

Wearing sunglasses.

Happy woman with shopping bags enjoying in shopping.

Yes, this one might seem a bit extreme, but hear us out. Unless you have a medical reason for wearing sunglasses, you'll want to make sure they're not with you when you're food shopping as there's a good chance you'll touch them, which then can lead to the spread of more germs.

"You wear your sunglasses on your head or clip them on your shirt and frequently touch or adjust them while shopping. It's an unnecessary risk for a 30-minute shopping venture," Gail Trauco R.N., BSN-OCN, patient advocate and CEO/founder of Medical Bill 911, told us in another article.

Ignoring social distance rules.

crowded checkout

Whether it's arrows on the floor telling you which direction to walk up and down the aisles or the markers telling you where to stand while you're on the checkout line, you're going to want to make sure you're actually following these directions. If everyone does their part to stay six feet from other costumers, it's going to make for a much safer shopping experience.

Spending too much time reading labels.

woman wearing protective face mask holding shopping basket and choosing food can product

While spending time closely reading nutrition labels is something we would encourage, during a time like right now (aka during a pandemic) it might be best to skip on this activity. It'll stop you from touching items you don't end up buying and you won't block up space in the aisles so other shoppers won't have to navigate around you. What can do you instead? Since you'll already be writing down a shopping list, it's best to do all your research on specific products while you're at home.

Forgetting to sanitize.

hand sanitizer

Once you're done and have got into your car or even if you're walking home with your bags of food, you'll want to be sure to break out the hand sanitizer again. It's better to be safe than sorry, right?

Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten