Is Coronavirus a Food Safety Issue?

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CDC and USDA are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.

There is some concern among consumers about whether or not there is risk associated with take-out or drive thru food. Currently, there is no indication that take out or drive thru meals will cause illness. However, this option is a good risk management choice, especially for high risk and elderly groups because it helps maintain social distancing and reduces the number of touch points.

Consumers have also questioned the safety of food delivered to their home. Similar to takeout, food delivery helps maintain social distancing and reduces the number of touchpoints. Many delivery programs have instituted no touch/no interaction options, which further reduces risk.

Can you get COVID-19 from touching food or packaging exposed to coronavirus? Based on current research, the risk of transfer of viruses from food packaging is very low. However, to further minimize risk, handling food packaging should be followed by handwashing and/or using hand sanitizer.

What happens in your body if you do ingest coronavirus through food? Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. It may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their mouth, eyes, or nose, but this is not thought to be the major way the virus is transmitted. Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of the virus directly by eating food that might inadvertently contain virus. In commercial food production, processing, and preparation, there are many best practices that are routinely followed as per federal, state, and local regulations. These are all designed to prevent foods from becoming contaminated with microbes from the environment, including viruses.

The best thing a consumer can do is to continue using good food safety practices before preparing or eating food, like always washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after using the restroom, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.