COVID-19: Should You Worry About Food Contamination?

With the number of coronavirus cases soaring to a new high worldwide and vaccines still remaining unavailable in most countries, we all must exercise extra caution to protect ourselves from Covid-19. With so much often conflicting information out there, many people are still confused about the specific precautions that need to be taken to stay safe and keep family members out of danger.
One of the most common questions so many people are struggling with is food safety and Covid-19. Are you unsure how to clean foods properly? Or whether or not you should order takeout right now? In this article, we answer 5 common food safety-related Covid-19 questions with the latest scientific data in mind.

1. Does heating up the food neutralize the virus?

COVID-19 and Food Safety cooking
The reason why cooked food is generally considered safer than uncooked food is due to the fact that high temperatures kill germs, be it bacteria, parasites, or viruses. Unlike the first two, however, viruses like the novel coronavirus cannot live and multiply in foods, they require a human or animal host to survive and can only linger on foods for a short time, so simply heating up food should be able to eliminate the virus.
“Cooking food to a safe temperature, such as 165 degrees Fahrenheit, is going to kill any virus particles that might have gotten onto food,” states the University of Maryland Medical System. So, thoroughly heating up foods should be able to get rid of any traces of the virus.

2. Is ordering takeout safe right now?

COVID-19 and Food Safety pizza takeout
If you’re mostly worried about the food itself, the short answer is “yes”. But when it comes to takeout, there’s more to consider than the food. In fact, who packaged and delivered your food and how may be more important than the person who cooked the meal. Deciding to order your food in is a great way to support struggling local businesses many of which have been forced to switch to takeout only and it’s much safer than indoor dining.
However, when you choose to order takeout, you must be cautious and clever, here are a few tips:
  • First and foremost, choose contactless delivery whenever possible or wear a mask and maintain a safe distance whenever this is not possible.
  • Opt for direct orders from restaurants instead of third-party distributors like DoorDash or UberEats. After all, the more hands your food passes through before reaching you, the higher the risk that someone on the way had the virus and infected the food or the packaging.
  • Get rid of any packaging, including containers, wrappers, and bags, and put the food on a clean plate. After the delivery person themselves, the packaging is the most dangerous part of your takeout because the virus can linger on hard surfaces for hours, so wash your hands after handling it. For the same reason, use your own utensils instead of those included in the order.
  • For some extra cautiousness, you can also reheat any cooked foods to ensure that all traces of the virus are gone.

3. Are there any known cases of someone catching Covid-19 through food?

COVID-19 and Food  shopping
The risk of getting Covid-19 through food is considered very low. To date, there are no definitive cases of someone contracting the virus from food, food packaging, or shopping bags according to the CDC, even though there have been confirmed cases of food workers who have gotten Covid-19 at work.
However, there have been studies confirming that the novel coronavirus can survive on raw, frozen chicken, fish, pork, and on the packaging of frozen foods, such as shrimps. Therefore, it would be careless to stop washing your hands when handling food and food packaging and not cooking food to the required temperature of 165°F (74°C).

4. How do you clean foods that don’t have a peel or rind?

COVID-19 and Food Safety asparagus
Handling fresh produce is much trickier than packaged foods, especially if it doesn’t have a skin or rind that you can simply peel off. With packaged foods, the routine is pretty straightforward: you unpackage the food when you get home, get rid of the packaging, then wash your hands and wipe down the counter.
When it comes to fresh produce that comes without packaging, though, experts recommend soaking them in water or even briefly dunking them into boiling water if you know that the specific food item can handle it. If the food has a rind or skin, scrape it down or peel it after washing, but with other foods simply soaking and washing should remove virtually all germs.

5. Should you cook for others?

COVID-19 and Food Safety making a sandwich
Inviting someone over for dinner is generally not a great idea these days and it’s generally preferable that you only have contact with the people you live with, but let’s imagine a situation in which you would cook for some family members and friends. Ideally, you’d have to prepare and serve food while wearing a mask and only include cooked foods on the menu.
Even then, though, there’s a risk of one of the guests sneezing at the table and spreading germs onto the silverware and food - which clearly puts everyone else at the table at risk. Therefore, there are just too many variables that could go wrong at a dinner party, so we wouldn’t recommend organizing one this holiday season, especially since we still don’t have the vaccine available.
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