We spent most of 2020 battling COVID-19, but some people are still unsure about best practices for grocery shopping safety. No wonder there is a lot of misdirected information around. Do you have to wipe your food when you get home? Is it true that reusable shopping bags are a hazard? Is hand sanitizer safer than wearing gloves?

Here are 6 shopping safety tips that aren’t really protecting you … and what to do instead. (And for more, check out These 33 Worst Mistakes You Can Make In The Grocery Store.)


According to the CDC, in most other situations, such as shopping, there is no need to put on gloves unless you are caring for someone who is sick.

It is best to stay at least three feet away from other buyers, wash your hands with soap and water when you get home (and use hand sanitizer in the meantime), and wear a face mask in public. (Related: Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest grocery shopping news.)


According to the FDA and CDC, there is no evidence that food packaging has been linked to the transmission of COVID-19. However, if you are concerned, the FDA recommends wiping the product packaging and allowing it to air dry as an extra precaution. (Related: How to Safely Wash Fruits and Vegetables During the Coronavirus Pandemic.)

Shopping bags sit in the back of the carShutterstock

This is just a fake hack that unfortunately went viral after the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that found that COVID-19 can live on certain surfaces for up to three days. But as Donald Schaffner, Professor of Food Science at Rutgers University, said, if you get sick from the grocery store, it’s not from your shopping, but from others.

If you are concerned about the safety of your food packaging, Schaffner recommends washing your hands after removing the groceries from the grocery bags. “The probability that there is the corona virus there is rather low anyway,” he said. “And even if it’s there, hand washing gets rid of it.”

Asian shoppers disinfect hands with disinfectant in the supermarket while shopping for groceries.  The public shopping cart is a contact point for high risk viruses and bacteria.Shutterstock

A few pumps of hand sanitizer before and after shopping will keep the virus at bay, right? Not quite, says the Ministry of Health. While hand sanitizer (when used correctly) can effectively kill some germs on your hands, it’s not a panacea. The DOH states that disinfectant only works on the outer layer of the film on your hands.

What’s the best way to clean your hands after shopping? Wash them by dampening them with warm water, lathering them with soap for at least 20 seconds, rinsing them off, and drying them with a clean towel.

Reusable bags: unpack meat from fabric bagsShutterstock

While there’s no clear answer as to whether or not bringing your own grocery bag is spreading the coronavirus, many grocery chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are temporarily banning reusable bags anyway to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Yes, it’s true that grocers are still handling items that you’ve already touched and potentially contaminated, but the ban on reusable bags is just an extra precaution some grocers are currently using to protect buyers.

Woman wearing protective face mask chooses wine in grocery storeShutterstock

Is it even safer than going to the supermarket to get coveted meat or frozen food? Stay away from grocery stores completely. The CDC recommends ordering your groceries online and either having them delivered or picked up from the curb. The takeaway here is to only venture into a brick and mortar supermarket or store when you absolutely need it.

For more helpful grocery shopping tips, check out the 36 Most Unhealthy Snacks in the Supermarket.