Food safety during the COVID-19 pandemic
COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Though scientists are still learning about COVID-19, there is a current consensus among the medical community that the virus is spread person-to-person.
Dr. Amruta Padhye, who works in pediatric infectious diseases at University of Missouri Health Care, said there have been no studies that show food is a primary route of transmission for the virus.
"We know that COVID-19 transmits from person to person, so that's why we are wearing masks while we talk so that we don't transmit while we talk, cough, or sneeze," Padhye said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there could be other ways COVID-19 spreads as well.
"It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes," the CDC said on its website. "This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads."
Cooking at home
Since COVID-19 does not seem to transmit through food, simply eating food does not put you at risk for the virus.
However, although it is still a minimal risk, preparing your food safely could make a difference.
"I think there's this concern that you could transmit COVID-19 through food packaging and surfaces," Padhye said.
To prevent this surface-to-human contamination, Padhye recommended following typical safe food handling practices. These include cleaning surfaces, cooking at the right temperature, separating foods, using separate cutting services and washing your hands.
For those nervous about germs carried on the packaging, Padhye also suggested opening packages of food onto a plate, throwing out the packaging and then washing hands before handling the food.
Wiping down boxes or thin plastics would not necessarily be helpful.
"If you're using any disinfectant wipes, make sure that they are meant to be used on certain surfaces," Padhye said. "Don't use wipes or anything that are meant for hard surfaces, etcetera, on food packaging."
Going out to eat comes with more risks than staying in for food, however, the risks are primarily related to social contact.
"People who are at high-risk for COVID-19, I would suggest they would probably be a little more cautious about going out often," Padhye said.
The CDC lists several ways people can decrease their risk of contracting COVID-19 while eating out.
- Wear face masks when you are not eating, when you can't social distance, and when you are going out to eat with people outside of your household.
- Social distance in any entryway, hallway, or waiting area.
- Sit outside if you can.
- Sit at tables at least 6 feet spaced out from each other.
- Avoid using high-touch, self-serve areas.
Despite taking precautions, there is still a risk of catching the coronavirus.
"People have been indoors for a long time, so we do want to go out and mingle, however, it's very important to weigh your personal risk," Padhye said.