Doctors: Clean Your Groceries to Limit Coronavirus Exposure


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — With cases of COVID-19 increasing, shoppers and employees are taking extra precautions when it comes to buying groceries.

“So with coronavirus right now, it is important that we do, that we are aware that coronavirus can live on surfaces,” said Dr. Shayla Toombs-Withers, owner of the Essence of Health Wellness Clinic. “We should be washing our groceries, we should at least be looking out for the mail we open, and we should make sure that we really are washing our hands.”

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Dr. Toombs-Withers says the coronavirus can live on surfaces for longer than we would expect.

“Surfaces like cardboard, so those packages that we are getting from Amazon, it can live on those surfaces for about 24 hours,” she said. “Even on plastic surfaces, stainless steel like your counter tops, it can live for up to two or three days even on those things. So it’s really important that we are mindful of this, and that this virus can still be present even though you don’t physically see it.”

But some think this extra washing step is unnecessary.

“If you think about it, if everyone is doing what they are supposed to, the people that are handling those groceries should already be cleaning them anyway, and taking extra precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

From grocery to table, Toombs-Withers says it’s best to wash produce, and even containers with warm water and soap.

“Definitely want to clean the top with that soap and warm water cause that’s where you’re going to be handling it to open your bottle up,” she said. “Then just clean down the sides of it, as we do with our hands 20 seconds if preferable, to make sure we are actually killing any potential contaminants.”

Toombs-Withers says you should also minimize the time spent at the store by planning ahead, and only touching the items that you’ll be taking home.

“If you have to go out and have to get those groceries, they do want to make sure that they are washing their hands. They don’t want to eat anything on their way home right when picking it up. They want to make sure that they are washing their hands after touching those surfaces.”

Toombs-Withers says these are just a few extra ways to keep both people and food safe.

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You can watch Emily Cassulo weeknights on News 12 Now at 6 and Prime News at 7 with John Mercer. Emily also does stories on different tech products and issues for Tech Byte, which airs Mondays on News 12 Now. She joined the WDEF news team in September 2016 from News 12’s sister station in Columbus, Mississippi, where she worked as an anchor, producer and reporter. Emily is no stranger to the Volunteer State. Before moving to Mississippi, she worked at WBBJ-TV, covering crime and severe weather throughout West Tennessee. She loves living in Chattanooga, and exploring what the Scenic City has to offer. Emily is a Florida native, graduating from the University of Central Florida with a degree in broadcast journalism and minor in political science. While in college, Emily worked part-time as a reporter/web producer at News/Talk 96.5 WDBO. She broke her first news story there, which made national headlines, and covered the 2010 Central Florida congressional elections and the high-profile Casey Anthony trial. When she’s not busy reporting, Emily enjoys shopping, reading, playing the piano, and spending time with family and friends. Feel free to e-mail her at if you have any story ideas or just want to say ‘Hi.’