Can COVID spread through food? A Simple Guide

Can COVID spread through food?  A Simple Guide

Are you wondering can COVID spread through food?  Here is a simple guide

The CDC considers the likelihood that COVID-19 can spread through food very low.

Research indicates that it is unlikely you will become infected with COVID through the handling food or food packages.

Wow, this is great news for you, but does not mean you can completely let your guard down.

No evidence suggests handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19 infection.

Research indicates that Coronavirus-19 most likely spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets.  These droplets release when someone coughs, sneezes, breathes heavy or talks.

However, there is still a slight possibility that you can get COVID-19 by touching a food surface or food object with the virus on it.  You would have to touch the infected surface and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes. 

Remember, experts do not think this is the main way the virus spreads.

No evidence has shown that Coronavirus or COVID-19 as pictured can be spread through food
No evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19 (pictured above), can spread through food.

Can you get COVID-19 from eating fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables?

Currently, there is no evidence that you can catch COVID-19 from food, including produce like fruits and vegetables. 

Now and always, you should wash produce before eating it (more on this in next question).

Fresh fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy.  Eat fresh fruits and vegetables as a part of a healthy diet, aim for 5 servings a day.

How should you wash your fruits and vegetables in the time of COVID-19?

Wash fruit and vegetables the same way you do normally.  

First, before handling produce you need to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.  Next, you wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water.

wash fruits and vegetables with water as part of food safety
Before handling produce wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.  Then wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water as pictured.

Can COVID spread through Food Packaging?

Similar to food, at present there is no evidence suggests handling food packaging is associated with COVID-19 infection.

Coronaviruses (the type of virus that COVID-19 is) need a live animal or live human host to multiply and survive.  They cannot multiply on the surface of food packages.  

Conversely, there is still a slim possibility that you can get COVID-19 by touching a food surface that has a live virus on it.  In order for you to become infected, you would have to touch the infected surface and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes.  The likelihood of this happening is incredibly low.

In order to ensure your safety, always wash your hands before preparing foods and before eating

Again, remember however, experts do not think this is the main way the virus spreads.

Do you need to sanitize food packages?

Probably not, but I do. 

The World Health Organization does not recommend disinfecting food packaging materials.  If you do sanitize your food packages, make sure you wash any food that has sanitizer on it.

Sanitizer is not safe for consumption. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers about alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are being packaged in food containers or packaging.  They appear as food or drink and consumption can cause serious internal injury and death!

Smiling Flask with Orange Liquid

Sanitizer is not safe for consumption. If you use sanitizer on food packaging make sure you are not consuming sanitizer.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through the consumption of cooked foods?  What about animal products?

Again, there is no proof that people can catch COVID-19 from food.  This includes all food.

Similarly, to other viruses, the virus that causes COVID-19 is killed at temperatures known to kill viruses and bacteria found in food.  

Per standard Food Safety, meat, poultry and eggs should always be thoroughly cooked to at least 165°F (70°C).  COVID-19 cannot survive at this temperate.  

What can you do to protect yourself?

Since the risk is low, but still present, here are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved one:

  • Shopping – When you go to the grocery store, where a mask.  Keep distance from other patrons.  When you get back to your car, sanitize your hands with hand sanitizer containing 60% alcohol or higher.
  • Wash – Once home, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them fully.  If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer again.  Cover all surfaces on the front and back of your hands and rub together until they feel dry.  
  • Sanitize – This is an extra step that I do, it is not necessarily recommended by the CDC, but cannot hurt.  You can spray the bags of food and packages with disinfectant before bringing them into your home.  For produce, wash everything as it comes in the house.  Make sure you dry the produce so they do not spoil.  Wet produce molds and rots quickly.
  • Wash again – when you handle food packages, prepare or eat food, always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.  Wash hands before, during and after you prepare food.  Always wash your hands before eating.  You should make this a habit.  This step is extremely critical now, but will also help keep your instances of illness lower in general.

Remember, it is always important to follow good food safety practices to reduce the risk of illness from common foodborne pathogens.

Food Safety Basics

Masks and hand washing are steps you can take to protect yourself from COVID and reduce your chance of it spreading through food
Using masks when grocery shopping and hand washing are steps you can take to protect yourself from COVID and reduce your chance of it spreading through food.

You can use these steps to help minimize your risk of getting COVID-19 from food or food packaging.  Make it a habit of following these basic food safety guidelines, even after COVID-19.

  1. CLEAN: Germs that cause food poisoning and foodborne illness can survive in many places.  They can spread around your kitchen and home.  Proper cleaning will minimize your risk of getting sick.
    • Always clean your hands: Wash your hands and surfaces often.  
    • Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
    • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables with water.
  2. SEPARATE: Cross contamination can occur between types of food products.  Separate meats from vegetables so this does not happen.
    • Raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can spread germs to other foods, except when you separate them.  You must do this when grocery shopping, during storage in your refrigerator and during food preparation. 
    • Cut products on individual cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.  Only use the board or plate with the raw food product.  Do not put anything else here or put the cooked food back on it.
  3. COOK: Make sure you cook to the right temperature.  Improper cooking can lead to food poisoning.  You can ensure that your food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make you sick.  Food thermometers are the only way you can tell if the food has reached the necessary temperature.  Buy and use a food thermometer to ensure cooked foods are at a safe internal temperature. Here is a list of foods and temperatures:145°F (63°C) for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating); 160°F (71°C)for ground meats, such as beef and pork 165°F (74°C) for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey 165°F (165°C) for leftovers and casseroles 145°F (63°C) for fresh ham raw) 145°F (63°C) for fish  
  4. CHILL: After you cook your food, refrigerate food promptly to avoid food poisoning. 
4 steps to Food Safety

Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F (4.4°C) and 140°F (60°F).  You really need to make sure you never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours.  The time goes down to 1 hour if it is hotter than 90°F outside.

  • Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below and know when to discard food.
  • Refrigerate cooked and perishable food within 2 hours. Note: If the outdoor temperature is above 90°F, you need to refrigerate within 1 hour.
  • Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.  Do not thaw food at room temperature on the counter. Bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.

Can COVID spread through food? Final Thoughts

The risk of COVID-19 being able to spread through food is highly unlikely and extremely low.  Now you have guidelines you can follow to ensure you and your loved ones remain safe.

As always, stay healthy and happy!

What do you think?  Do you still have fears of getting COVID from foods?

Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).  Retrieved 30 August 2020.

Keep Food Safe. Retrieved 31 August 2020.

Q&A: Food Safety and Nutrition related to COVID-19.  Retrieved 31 August 2020.

4 Steps to Food Safety.  Retrieved 31 August 2020.

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