Coronavirus: Should you be disinfecting your reusable shopping bags?

The way we shop has changed due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

As of Monday, it’s infected more than 4100 Australians and killed 18.

It’s led to the closure of venues, beaches and large-scale events and it’s changed the way we access our supermarkets.

Coronavirus live blog: Latest news and updates about the crisis in Australia

But do we need to change our hygiene habits when buying groceries? Do we need to be careful of re-using our supermarket bags?

Should you wash your shopping bags? Source: AAP (file pic)

Are people cleaning their reusable bags?

The question was floated on Facebook by a concerned mum who asked in a group for Aldi shoppers: “is anyone disinfecting their groceries, fruit, veg and reusable shopping bags?”

One woman said her solution to any concerns about bags carrying germs was simply to throw hers in the bin after bringing them home.

“I’ll deal with the global plastic crisis again once we aren’t in lockdown,” she wrote.

Another wrote she’s been using vinegar but it proved to not work so she switched to soap.

Vinegar was also another woman’s solution however she added she’s been doing this since before the coronavirus crisis.

Some people have turned to washing their bags with soap in the sink. Source: AAP (file pic)

We already know coronavirus can survive on the surface of our smartphones and it can also live up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

Do we need to wash our reusable bags?

Yahoo News Australia spoke with Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an expert in infection control and prevention, from UNSW.

Professor McLaws told Yahoo News we shouldn’t be too concerned about COVID-19 clinging onto our bags.

“Bags might be able to hijack it but the droplets dry out rapidly,” she said.

“When putting your bags on the kitchen counter - clean that down with soap and water and that should clean the envelope of the virus.”

Travellers return from overseas at Sydney Airport on Monday. Source: Getty Images

That being said - there’s no harm in cleaning your bags too if you’re concerned.

“By all means you can wash them with a rag with soap and water,” Professor McLaws said.

“Or you can put them out in the sun.”

She added one of the best ways to kill the virus is with a product containing 70 per cent ethanol.

Do I need to wash my fruit and vegetables?

You don’t necessarily have to wash your produce but it’s good practice anyway.

“As a good hygiene rule you should wash them before putting them in the fridge,” Professor McLaws said.

“For more fragile items, like berries if you’re worried they might not survive being washed under the tap, just wash them before eating them.”

It's best practise to wash your fruit and veggies before eating them anyway - and that's even outside of the COVID-10 pandemic. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

Professor McLaws said while it is possible someone who’s touched the virus could pass it on to fruit and veg – supermarkets are practising good hygiene currently.

You also don’t need to use soap on your food, she said.

Can the virus be passed through food or beverages?

COVID-19 is spread by droplets but Professor McLaws said she’s “never read anything” in which someone has received the virus transmitted through food or beverages.

“The most common method of transmission comes from droplets from someone’s mouth,” she said.

“Anything else has not been identified yet.”

‘Imagine they’re covered in glitter’

If you’re airing on the side of extreme caution, Dr Jeffrey VanWingen, a family doctor from the US state of Michigan, has put out a series of videos on COVID-19 and how to avoid getting it.

In one YouTube video from last week, Dr VanWingen recommends leaving your groceries out of your home for three days if possible.

But “if you must bring them in” “imagine that the groceries that you have are covered with some glitter and your goal at the end of this is to not have any glitter in your house, on your hands or especially on your face”.

Dr VanWingen adds people need to imagine that soap and disinfectants have the power to dissolve that glitter.

Among his tips when going to the supermarket are: wiping down your trolley before using it, commit to buying something before taking it off the shelf, don’t shop if you have respiratory issues, and to always buy two weeks worth of groceries.

Like Professor McLaws, he also advises wiping down the kitchen bench before using it.

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