Updates on Food and COVID -19
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Substantial information has been published on keeping healthy during our current climate. This is a summary of best practices around food safety from NC State Extension resources.
At this point, there is no evidence that the coronavirus that causes COVID- 19 is transmitted through food, rather through close contact with someone who is carrying the virus.
It’s spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
The main concern with grocery shopping is getting too close to someone who is carrying the virus. That’s where the 6-foot rule of social distancing comes in, which may be difficult in the store. Some stores advertise special hours for older adults and immune-compromised individuals. Grocery shopping services are a great option, especially for those who are susceptible. For anyone, shopping when there are fewer people lessens risk.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing a cloth face covering that covers your nose and mouth while in public settings. Not only does a mask help keep droplets from spreading, it also helps you to remember not to touch your face while shopping.
If an infected person spreads respiratory droplets on packages or other surfaces in the store, viruses could be present, but will die off pretty quickly without a host. As a smart precaution, some stores have disinfecting sprays or wipes to use on grocery cart or basket handles. It’s prudent to use hand sanitizer after returning a cart or basket. Once home, wash your hands with soap and water before and after unpacking your groceries, and before cooking. This practice will help keep any remaining viruses from reaching your eyes, mouth, or nose. Handwashing is an effective preventive measure, and disinfecting the outside of food packages is not necessary.
As far as produce goes, scrub firm items like mangos, melons and cucumbers with a clean brush under running water, and thoroughly rinse more delicate produce. It’s best not to use soap or disinfectants, as they may leave a film and are not safe for consumption.
Keeping high-touch areas such as sinks, countertops, and doorknobs clean and disinfected is a good practice, especially if a household member is sick. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of disinfectants online that are effective against harder-to-kill viruses. It’s important to leave the disinfectant on the surface for the recommended contact time for it to work. If you choose household bleach, make sure that it isn’t past its expiration date. Prepare the solution by mixing 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. The solution’s ability to disinfect doesn’t last, so only make enough for one day.
If you shop with reusable cloth bags, wash them in warm water with regular laundry detergent and dry them at the highest setting possible. If they are plastic or nylon, wash inside and out with warm, soapy water and then spray with a disinfectant. Allow to air dry before storing or using.
Finally, to reduce the number of trips to the store, make a weekly plan for meals and snacks. A grocery list will help you to not forget anything and be more efficient in the store.
Supporting restaurants by using takeout, drive-thru, or delivery is considered a safe option. Many delivery services allow the delivery worker to send a message or call when they leave food at your door, allowing for even less person-to-person contact.
Since COVID- 19 is not thought to be spread through food, you can stay healthy by getting into a new routine around shopping, handwashing, and sanitizing. What a great time to try different cuisines and develop new skills in the kitchen!
For more information, please visit go.ncsu.edu/covid-19.