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Coronavirus: Is is safe to buy food in a supermarket using a reusable bag?

Experts don't know exactly how long the virus can live on surfaces.
Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 05, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — With the coronavirus causing increased concerns, is it safe to buy food at a grocery store where many things have been touched by multiple hands?

According to Dr. Thomas Russo at UB Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, shoppers need to be aware of how the virus spreads and follow good hygiene rules in stores. That includes staying home if you are sick, washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, and not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

"We don't know how long the new virus is able to survive on inanimate surfaces, but it can probably survive for several hours," said Dr. Russo.

Having someone cough or sneeze on store items, or your grocery bag, can increase your chance of getting infected.

"As long as you wash your hands and don't touch your face, you will be safe," added Dr. Russo.

Now that New York State has banned the use of plastic bags for groceries, reusable grocery bags are being used more often.

Do reusable grocery bags increase the chances of passing a virus?

Some research shows they can and the issue is something that both Tops and Wegmans are concerned with.

TOPS sent us the following statement:

"We do not currently wipe out our shoppers reusable bags. According to the law, article 27, section 27-2801 we cannot prevent a person from using a bag of any kind that they have brought for purposes of carrying goods. We do encourage shoppers to bring clean bags for use of transporting their groceries and also encourage that they purchase new bags if we feel a bag is too soiled."

WEGMANS sent us the following statement:

"The health and safety of our customers and employees are our top priorities. We are encouraging all of our employees to follow the CDC’s guidelines to prevent the spread of germs, i.e. washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and staying home if they are sick. For customers choosing to use reusable bags, we recommend wiping down the bags with warm, soapy water and letting them air dry to keep them clean."

The American Cleaning Institute in Washington, D.C. is also advising customers to wash their reusable grocery bags after every use. In addition, the institute advises people to "not store" reusable grocery bags in the trunk of their car because the darkness and humidity encourages the growth of bacteria.

You can find a complete list of reusable grocery bag cleaning tips by clicking on this link.