With so much conflicting information circulating about coronavirus, you may find yourself confused about what will and what won’t get you sick. The topic of food safety is one that’s particularly clouded by uncertainty, so we’ve listed a few answers to some common questions about food and COVID-19.
Can you catch COVID-19 from food?
There is no evidence so far that indicates that COVID-19 is transmitted through food, likely in part because food preparation is already an area where many precautions are taken to limit the spread of more virulent foodborne pathogens. However, you might also worry about contamination of food packaging. To address this concern, wash all produce when you bring it home from the store and wash your hands after touching any packaged foods.
Will there be long-term food shortages?
Food supply chains have been significantly disrupted as the demand for food has shifted away from the service industry and into grocery stores. Still, consumers are advised not to worry about long-term shortages of essential foods as new packaging regulations are put in place.
Can coronavirus contaminate drinking water?
You may notice lots of people stocking up on bottled water at the supermarket, but you are still safe consuming tap water. There is no evidence that coronavirus has contaminated any municipal water sources, so only purchase bottled water if you prefer the taste.
What should I stock up on at the grocery store?
Fortunately, most grocery stores have stabilized their stock and have plenty of the essentials you’ll need. However, you may still not be used to shopping for several weeks at a time and preparing most of your meals at home. Some of the best foods to stock up on include:
- Dried beans
- Shelf-stable dried or canned milk
- Oats and whole grains
- Potatoes, onions, cabbage, and other hearty fresh vegetables
- Frozen and canned fruits and veggies
- Canned fish
- Dried fruit and jerky
In addition, you should avoid purchasing unhealthy snacks and junk food, as these can be all too tempting during times of crisis. Healthier snack options to keep on hand are popcorn, hummus, crackers, yogurt, and fruits and veggies.
Can I order takeout or have food delivered?
If you don’t feel comfortable shopping in a store, having food items delivered to you can be a good alternative. Just make sure to limit contact as much as possible when accepting deliveries or receiving orders. A good first line of defense is to pay online or by phone, and then ask for the items to be left in a safe spot outside your home, like a porch or lobby.
Because most takeout containers are meant to be single-use, transferring the food to a clean dish that you know has been thoroughly sanitized is not a bad idea, since COVID-19 has been shown to live for a day on porous surfaces, which includes takeout containers.
And don’t forget the golden rule—wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after handling any food packaging. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. And the same goes for your countertop. You could have the cleanest dishes in the world, but if you set them onto a contaminated surface, germs can move from that surface to your plate.
As with many other strategies around COVID-19, decisions about protection come down to a personal level. Come up with a plan for handling food safely that works best for you, and your individual needs.
When you need answers to your questions about coronavirus, food safety, and any other health concerns, turn to MeMD. We can help you connect to a doctor or nurse practitioner within 24 hours from the safety of your own home.