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7 Ways You're Sanitizing Your Groceries All Wrong

Next time you go out to buy food, avoid these mistakes at all costs.

Now that you've taken all the right safety precautions at the grocery store during the coronavirus pandemic, the last thing you want to do is waste all of your efforts by not properly sanitizing your groceries at home. Don't worry, there aren't a ton of steps you need to take in order to keep your food (and yourself) safe and healthy, just a few that you should keep in mind.

So the next time you come home from your grocery store excursion, here are things you don't want to do when sanitizing your groceries.

You're not washing your hands first.

washing hands in kitchen

No matter what, the first thing you should do after getting home from the grocery store is wash your hands. You don't want to go around touching your groceries—or any other items in your kitchen—before washing your hands first. If you don't, then you won't really be properly sanitizing your groceries, and all the effort you take to creating a clean kitchen environment will go to waste. The best thing to do is to remove your mask first before washing your hands.

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You're not sanitizing surfaces.

woman cleaning counter

Even if you're clean in the kitchen and wash your hands, it's important to wipe down all surfaces just in case. This way you are not only furthering the spread of germs, but you're avoiding any food cross-contamination that could happen if your kitchen isn't properly sanitized. So before you empty out those groceries on the counter, wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe or spray first.

You're washing your produce with soap.

hands in yellow gloves are washing food products to get rid of bacteria or virus

While it may seem like you need to wash everything down with soap, trust us, you don't have to—and it's going to make your produce taste really strange. To properly wash your produce when you get home, simply rinse them down with cool water. Even if your produce needs to be peeled—like potatoes or carrots—still rinse them down so you aren't getting any possible food contamination on your peeler and the inside of whatever produce you are peeling.

You're not regularly cleaning your fridge.

fridge spill

You're probably cooking a lot more than usual lately, so it's important to keep account of what's in your fridge and how often you are cleaning it. Take some time to evaluate what's inside your fridge every weekend and wipe down all the surfaces, while simultaneously tossing any cooked food that's been in there more than a week, or any other foods that have gone bad. Why is this an important step for sanitizing your groceries? Because if you don't, your groceries will then mix in with any rotting food and crease possible food contamination because of it.

You're not storing items properly in the fridge.

fridge stocked

Speaking of your fridge, it's also important where you store your groceries. Food safety experts say the best way to organize a fridge is to start with your leftovers and pre-cooked foods on the top shelf. Middle shelves should contain dairy products (milk, cheese) as well as eggs and juices. The lower shelves should contain any raw meats and fish that you plan on cooking soon. The bottom crispers should contain your fresh fruits and vegetables, and the doors should have all of your condiments and beverages. Storing your foods this way helps to keep your groceries sanitized after going through all of these safety precautions beforehand.

You're not washing your reusable bags.

reusable grocery bag with fruits veggies spilling out

While some stores aren't allowing the use of reusable bags right now, if you are going to a store that does allow it, you need to make sure you're running those bags through the laundry before your next trip. This will help to prevent all kinds of germs to spread and foodborne illnesses to arise. So keep them clean.

You're wiping down everything you buy.


Now here's something you probably weren't expecting, but it's true. You do not need to wipe down every single item that you buy! According to the FDA, there is no evidence of COVID-19 spreading through packaged pantry goods, so you don't have to wipe them down. However, if it would make you feel better to do so, make sure to leave them out on the counter after wiping them down so they can air dry. But trust us when we say, you don't have to worry about it. It's the refrigerated items you want to make sure are being stored in a clean fridge and your produce that needs rinsing before you cook.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten
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