5 Rules for Food Shopping Right Now, According to a Doctor
Although Mayor Garcetti recently shut down the Los Angeles County farmers markets, they are still open in Santa Monica, Pasadena and other ’burbs. We’d like to support those farmers (and eat well) while following proper protocols for social distancing. So, what’s the best way to navigate these markets and grocery stores in general? We tapped Shawn Nasseri, M.D., a Harvard-educated, Mayo Clinic–trained ear, nose and throat doctor based in Beverly Hills, for his expert advice on food shopping during the COVID-19 outbreak.
1. Wear a mask and gloves
A mask will help protect you (and those around you) from any airborne particles, but since there is a shortage of N95 masks and surgical masks at the moment (which should be given to health care professionals first and foremost), a homemade one will work fine for your trip to the grocery store or market. Make sure you properly wash your hands for 20 seconds before putting on the mask so you don’t transfer any germs from your hands onto your face, advises Dr. Nasseri. Also, remember to wear a new or cleaned mask for each trip in order to keep it working as effectively as possible. Here at PureWow, we are crushing on the bright ones from Los Angeles Apparel and Reformation, as well as the Hedley and Bennet designs that let you add a HEPA or coffee filter for extra protection. (Note: At the time of writing, the CDC is reviewing its policy that the only people who need to wear a face mask are those who are sick or are caring for someone who is sick.)
Since it’s likely that other shoppers will be touching items, wear gloves to protect yourself from encountering any particles that may be on the products or any surfaces like tables or shelves. Make sure to remove the gloves after shopping and dispose of them so that you do not transfer anything onto your steering wheel after you leave.
2. Wipe down carts and baskets
Bring disinfecting wipes with you in case your local grocery store or market doesn’t have any available. Since many people are using the carts, you should disinfect everything to minimize the risk of coming into contact with the virus since it can last on plastic and metal for up to 72 hours.
3. Stay at least 6 feet away from other shoppers
Many grocery stores are allowing only a small number of customers in at once to allow for social distancing, as well as marking off six-foot increments for people standing in lines. If you feel unsafe at any point during your trip, do not be afraid to politely tell people to keep their distance or speak to a manager about the number of people in the store. Farmers markets are better than stores as they are open air, but if your local market looks too crowded for comfort, then avoid it. And keep trips short (this isn’t the time to linger in the produce aisle debating the merits of russet versus Yukon Gold.)
4. Touch only the products you are going to buy
The less stuff you touch, the less likely you are to come in contact with germs or particles. Making a list of exactly what you need will help you get in and out as soon as possible and will ensure that you are only picking up what you need to buy. (No hoarding, please.)
5. Implement a new hygiene routine
As soon as you get back into the car, use a disinfecting wipe or hand sanitizer if you have it. When you get home, implement a new ritual hygiene routine that includes removing your shoes and changing your clothes (keep a spare set of items at the front of your house to immediately change into). Put the clothes you removed in a laundry hamper or trash bag until you can wash them. Once inside, wash your hands and face right away and blow your nose (per Dr. Nasseri, this step washes out the mucous membrane, which is where the virus lives.) Here’s a tip: Hang one of L.A. artist Eric Junker’s hand-washing posters in your entrance if you need a reminder. If time allows, take a hot shower.
Oh, and one more thing: The staff at grocery stores and farmers markets are on the front lines of this pandemic, so please remember to be kind and say thank you.