Risk of getting COVID-19 from grocery store surfaces is low, University of Guelph study finds

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In a study conducted by Guelph, Ont., scientists can make some shoppers feel a little more comfortable when they go to the grocery store.

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Researchers from the University of Guelph have found that the chances of getting infected with COVID-19 from grocery store surfaces are very low.

The university said a team of scientists swabbed hundreds of high-contact surfaces in grocery stores and none of them tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

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The team was led by Professor Maria Koradini from the Department of Food Science and Malika Singh, PhD student. They concluded that as long as recommended cleaning protocols are followed in stores, the risk of exposure from a contaminated surface at the grocery store is low.

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“We believe that wearing masks as well as cleaning and disinfecting contact surfaces significantly reduces the risk of transmission from surfaces to humans in grocery stores,” Corradini said.

The university said the team reported last year that the virus can survive on surfaces in hospitals for hours or days.

Researchers took 957 samples from four Ontario grocery stores for about a month between mid-October and mid-November during the pandemic’s second wave in 2020.

They swabbed the handles of carts and baskets, payment terminals and conveyor belts, surfaces around deli counters, and plastic and metal handles in the frozen food section at checkout.

No matter whether the store was in an urban or suburban area, the day or time of sampling, or the location or surface material within the store, no sample tested positive for the virus, the university said.

“These results suggest that if stores implement regular hygiene routines and monitor the health of store personnel, the risk of exposure from high-touch surfaces within the grocery store is low,” Corradini said.

The study was recently published in the journal Current Research in Food Science.

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The researchers noted that their findings support those of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also said that while transmission of COVID-19 through surfaces is possible, it is highly unlikely.

The main transmission route is through droplet or airborne transmission through infected people, the researchers said.

CDC guidelines say that cleaning a high-touch surface with detergent or soap once a day is sufficient if there are no suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area within 24 hours.

The agency also emphasizes that transmission can be reduced by consistently and correctly wearing masks, practicing hand hygiene, cleanliness and taking other measures to maintain health facilities.

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