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Published on April 28, 2020

closeup of woman choosing meat in store

Should I Worry About Getting COVID-19 From Food?

We all need food to stay alive and healthy whether there’s a pandemic going on or not.

But could the food we’re buying at the grocery store be a means by which the virus is transmitted into our homes?

Guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), suggest the answer is “no.”

The virus is not transmitted by eating. It’s spread mainly by person-to-person through respiratory droplets that are produced when someone coughs or sneezes, and then another person breathes in these tiny droplets.

The virus can be transmitted on surfaces when someone touches that surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth. But this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Here are some questions you may be wondering about:

What if someone who had the virus packaged or processed my food?

There are no data or reports to suggest that COVID-19 transmits on food or food packaging.

Food manufacturers are required to adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) as set forth by the Code of Federal Regulations. These GMPs are intended to ensure that food is manufactured in a safe environment and under sanitary conditions.

What if someone with the virus stocked or touched my food at the store?

Person-to-person transmission is more likely. When out in public, stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Consider wearing a cloth face mask.

To prevent picking up the virus from surfaces, practice good hand hygiene and wash any fresh produce before preparing or eating. Use hand sanitizer and wipes that may be available near the door at your grocery store.

I have heard of meat packing plants that have closed. Are there any food safety issues from these plants?

No. There have been cases of pork, beef and chicken processing plants closing due to COVID-19. In most cases, these closures are the result of concern for employee health after some plant workers have tested positive for the virus. Labor availability also has been a challenge, with many schools closed and limited daycare options. The meat these plants have produced has been through strict federal safety inspection and should pose no concern for consumers as it relates to COVID-19.

The best ways to prevent transmission of the virus is to stay home as much as possible, practice social distancing and wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available):

  • After you get home from the grocery store or other public locations
  • Before and after you handle food – like putting it in your refrigerator or pantry
  • Before you begin preparing a meal
  • After completing food preparation
  • Before eating/serving food

Other tips for generally safe and sanitary eating:

  • Always wash fresh fruits/vegetables before preparing or eating
  • Wash hands after handling raw meat and avoid cross contamination with utensils or dishes
  • Cook raw meat to the recommended temperatures (for example, 165 degrees for poultry, 160 degrees for ground beef)
  • Clean and disinfect kitchen and bathroom sinks and counter-tops and frequently touched surfaces in your home

Sources: South Dakota State University Extension; National Pork Board.

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