Skip to content

11 Unsafest Things You Can Do at the Grocery Store, Say Doctors

Medical experts say these things are the most risky while you’re shopping.

In the months since the coronavirus pandemic began, scientists and doctors have had time to see what the riskiest behaviors at the grocery store are. And with the number of cases continuing to climb into the millions, it's definitely a good time to take a look at the unsafest things you do while shopping and how you can reduce the spread while at the grocery store.

Here are 11 of those unsafe behaviors, according to medical professionals.

Use your phone

grocery list

The convenience of having your shopping list on your phone, or checking a grocery store's app for things on sale, is great any other time, but during a pandemic, it's best to leave your phone in your pocket, bag, or in the car.

"We unconsciously touch our smartphones while shopping to text, take a call, or check grocery lists," says Dr. Lina Velikova, MD, PhD, a medical advisor for Supplements101. "Touching products at the store and then your smartphone several times increases the chances of it becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses."

Related: 3 Things You Shouldn't Do at the Grocery Store

Use a reusable bag

Reusable Bags: Unpacking Meat From Fabric Bags

Just like your phone, a reusable bag that travels with you to the grocery store and back home can carry a lot of germs. It's better to just go with the bags at the store instead of bringing reusable ones in.

But, there is a doctor-approved way to use them that doesn't make our list for the unsafest things you can do at the grocery store. "However, leaving them in the car, bringing the groceries to the car and loading groceries into the bags to ease carriage into the home can minimize cross-contamination," says Dr. Susan Donelan. "It's important to clean the bags as soon as they are emptied of its contents."

And here's The Real Reason You Shouldn't Bring Reusable Bags to the Grocery Store.

Wear gloves

Woman shopping at supermarket

Sure, they seem like a great way to keep germs and bacteria off your hands, but people often don't use gloves correctly. This can actually make them one of the unsafest things you can do while shopping.

"When you are touching various items with gloves you may spread the infection to whatever thing you touch next; this may also include your face, phone, purse, or another item at the grocery store," says Dr. Rashmi Byakodi, editor of Best of Nutrition. "People may get a false sense of security when wearing gloves, but they forget that the gloves are contaminated once they touch a surface."

Interestingly enough, though, here's Why You May Never Eat a Burger With Your Bare Hands Again.

Not wear a mask

woman wearing protective face mask chooses wine in grocery store

You've probably heard it so many times by now, but wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, according to health officials and medical experts. Yet, some grocery customers still won't comply with mask-wearing rules.

Still, many states and grocery stores have enacted mandates related to wearing a face covering in public. Here are 11 Major Grocery Chains Where You Need to Wear a Mask.

Spend a lot of time shopping

grocery shopping

One of the unsafest things you can do at the grocery store right now doesn't have to do with touching anything. It's actually about how much time you spend inside the market, doctors say. The CDC and the World Health Organization both say the virus is mainly airborne, and so the longer you spend at the grocery store, the larger your chances of picking up the virus from the air are.

Related: Your Local Grocery Store Could Do This If Customers Don't Follow Safety Rules

Disinfect your food when you get home


While this isn't technically done at the grocery store, the CDC warns customers not to use household cleaners to disinfect the food they buy. Doing so can cause damage to your skin, and if ingested, to your tissues and organs. All you need to do is rinse fresh fruits and vegetables and you're good to go.

So while Lysol is flying off the shelves right now, you don't need to use it on the food you bring home.

Good news! The FDA Says You Can't Contract COVID-19 From This Item at the Grocery Store.

Touching things you're not going to buy

grocery shopping

It's best to only grab an item you are going to put in your cart, says the Cleveland Clinic. So avoid picking around all the fruit or trying to grab the product in the back of the shelf. Touching a bunch of things you don't intend on buying is an unsafe thing you can easily avoid.

Want more tips like this? Here are 7 Things You Must Stop Doing While Grocery Shopping Right Now.

Wearing your sunglasses


Even if you take off your sunglasses once you enter the grocery store, medical experts say placing them on your head or clipping them to your shirt where they might need to be adjusted, is one of the unsafest things you can do.

So even though the coronavirus mainly spreads through the air, "There is a higher likelihood that an oil layer is already on the material from moisturizers or sunscreens. Additional cleaning is required to remove the oil residue and potential coronavirus if exposed. Shades have bends and folds which are difficult to clean and are a 'hiding place' for COVID-19.," says Gail Trauco R.N., BSN-OCN, patient advocate, and CEO/founder of Medical Bill 911.

Related: This One Mistake While Grocery Shopping Skyrockets Your Coronavirus Risk

Touch your face

touching face

According to Dr. William Lang, Medical Director at private concierge medicine practice WorldClinic, people touch their face about 30 times an hour without thinking. This can increase your risk of contracting the coronavirus, especially if you're shopping and touch something that a contaminated person has also touched.

To try and prevent this, wear a mask, and read up on 5 Precautions You Must Take Before Walking Into a Grocery Store.

Listen to music

grocery shopping headphones

While it can be relaxing, listening to music or a podcast while grocery shopping is one of the unsafest things you can do. It's best to limit the number of distractions while you are so close to other people.

"For some, listening to music can make a seemingly mundane task like shopping more enjoyable, but I'd argue that grocery shopping does not have to be mundane and require a distraction to help the process," says Daniel Rosen, M.D., a bariatric surgeon who runs and serves as a concierge COVID-19 medical adviser. "With the threat of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing, it's advisable to limit all distractions, including excessively loud music, for the safety of yourself and other shoppers."

For more tips on what to do while at the supermarket, here are 7 Things Dr. Fauci Does When He Shops for Groceries.

Skipping the produce aisle

produce grocery store

The CDC has declared that the coronavirus is spread mostly through the air, meaning picking it up from food items like fruits and vegetables is extremely rare. So there's no reason you should skip the produce section altogether. In fact, doing so is one of the unsafest things you can do.

Fruits, like peaches, and vegetables are a great way to get a ton of vitamins and minerals that can help keep the immune system strong. And a healthy immune system equals a healthy body. Especially with cases of the coronavirus spreading rapidly, it's best to head right to the produce aisle!

Your ultimate supermarket survival guide is here!

Amanda McDonald
Amanda has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in digital journalism from Loyola University Chicago. Read more about Amanda