To some extent, we are in an unknown territory about the ‘new’ (novel) virus - COVID-19. However, based on previous studies, data, and science, there are some tips and strategies that we can use to mitigate the risk of infection.
We have received many food safety related questions. Although health officials and scientists are working rapidly and diligently to find out more about what COVID-19 is and isn’t and how it behaves - there is information that we know today that can help our community to eat well and stay healthy and safe.
Here are some questions that we are hearing from you the most about food safety. Please read on for tips that we hope will be useful for you to keep you and your patients safe.
Is it safe to eat the food products and fresh produce purchased at the store or the farmers’ market?
The answer, for now, is - yes. Data for how long the virus stays on food is limited, and according to health and safety organizations such as the CDC, USDA, FDA, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, and the European Food Safety Authority, there is no evidence of COVID-19 infection from food or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and the virus reproduces along the respiratory tract when, for example, mucosae (mouth or nose) or eyes is exposed to the virus. It is not transmitted through the digestive tract. And unlike bacteria, viruses like COVID-19 are unable to grow inside foods.
What can I do to reduce the risk of infection from cooking and eating meals?
Although transmission of COVID-19 from consuming food items and fresh produce has not been found so far and is highly unlikely, the following steps may be taken to further reduce the risk of transmission:
- Reheat food before eating - suggested temperature and time to kill COVID-19 are not yet determined but some scientists suggest a temperature of 149 degrees F (65 degrees C) for at least 3 minutes is effective.
- Wash, wash, and...wash your produce and hands! Rinsing fresh produce well with running water is effective in reducing the risk of transmission from viruses and bacteria when handling fresh produce. Washing our hands with soap and water frequently is highly effective in reducing the risk of infection so make sure to to do before, during, and after cooking and prepping meals.
- Use a veggie brush, not soap: Washing your produce with cool running water is best. Make sure to rub them under running water. Using soap is not advised, but using a clean vegetable brush to get into the nooks and crannies of uneven surfaces like cantaloupe, carrots, and potatoes are helpful. (Tip: Wash your veggie brush with soap and water after use - and let it air dry.)
- Peel: During the outbreak, if you want to be sure fresh produce is safe, peel your fruits and vegetables. Wash the produce, wash your hands, peel, then wash your hands again.
- Clean, separate, cook, and chill: Follow proper food preparation procedures at home. The risk from the virus is greatly reduced when basic hygiene guidelines are followed and minimizes the risk of infection through the produce that’s been handled by other people.
Nourishing food is key to maintaining our health during these challenging times. We hope some of the tips and information will be helpful in reducing the anxiety, fear, and worry that you or your loved ones may be feeling at this time.
Stay well, we are thinking of you.
Please note that the information shared regarding COVID-19 is sourced from various evidence-based and trusted experts and organizations. However, we are unable to provide specific advice on infectious disease prevention, management, or treatment. The data and advice on COVID-19 is changing frequently. For the most up-to-date and expert guided information, visit the WHO and CDC websites, and make sure to check with your local health organization for further advice.