Regardless of your current situation, there is one thing we all have in common: we still need to eat and want safe food. There are many different ways to get food right now from visiting the grocery store like normal, curbside food pick-up, food delivery, or a personal grocery shopper (instacart). With the plethora of information circulating right now about how to stay safe, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and find yourself in panic mode. To alleviate some fear and confusion, we would like to address some current concerns/ myths pertaining to food. 

Can you get COVID-19 through contaminated food?

As of right now, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transferred through food or water. Certain viruses such as the norovirus (stomach flu) can be spread through contaminated food, but COVID-19 is not. With that being said, it is still good practice to avoid sharing food and drink with those you are in contact with right now. 

Is it safe to get takeout or food delivered?

COVID-19 can be spread through touching a surface that has the virus and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. However, this is not the main way the virus is spread. It is more likely that someone would contract the virus through contact with the food worker than the packaging of the food itself. Take precautions such as wearing gloves when getting takeout if you are over 60 or otherwise compromised, and strive for minimal contact with any workers. When you do get takeout or food delivered, remove it from the package, place the food on a plate, discard the package, and wash your hands. 

How do I safely go to the grocery store?

There is no current literature that states that touching grocery store packaging can be a risk factor for contracting COVID-19. However, being around a large group of people who are all touching the same carts and pin pads can be an issue. We recommend wearing gloves or taking wipes/hand sanitizer to sanitize the areas or your hands after touching them. Attempt to stay 6 feet away from others at the store, and if you think you may be sick use a food delivery service instead of venturing to the store. 

Can I use my reusable bags?

All reusable grocery bags carry bacteria (pre covid-19!).  With COVID-19, many grocery stores are not allowing you to bring these reusable bags from home as a way to protect employees. For now, we’re putting environmental concerns on hold and going with plastic bags provided by the store. 

Any special considerations for kitchen sanitization?

After you’ve put away your groceries, it’s time to bust out the cleaning supplies. Feel free to sanitize the counter; the doorknobs and handles; your phone; anything you’ve touched since returning from the store. 

Do I need to disinfect my fresh fruits and veggies?

boy with an apple in his mouth that says "I'm Safe"

Although there is a small chance the virus could survive on organic matter (fruits and veggies) for 24 hours, there is no need to use soap or heavy duty cleansers. Research has shown that running them under hot water and using a fruit/vegetable scrub brush has the same effect. And using soap or other “cleaners” could cause more harm than good. 

For certain produce like lettuce and leafy greens, rinse in cool water. For heartier produce like potatoes, melons and apples, you can use a scrub brush. No special rinse solutions necessary. Evidence shows water does as well of a job eliminating viruses on produce. If you’re still looking for one additional step, add a bit of vinegar or lemon juice to the water.

No bubble baths needed for your apples. It’s safe to eat the whole apple including the peel. Stress-free eat and enjoy all its nutritious benefits without fear.

Resources:

https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/food-safety-and-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

https://www.eatright.org/coronavirus

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/20/health/food-safety-groceries-coronavirus-wellness/index.html

https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-and-food-safety

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.