The coronavirus and COVID-19 have instigated a new normal for us all, affecting almost every aspect of life. We are all aware of the everyday preventive actions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends.

  • Avoid close contact with others.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands often, including before eating or preparing food.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Stay at home if you’re sick.

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. A sick person coughs or sneezes and moisture droplets containing virus land in the mouth or nose, or are inhaled, by healthy people nearby.

But what are the facts related to coronavirus and the safety of our food? Let’s look at CDC guidance for answers to four common food-related questions.

Can I get sick from eating food contaminated with COVID-19 virus particles?

CDC statement: “Currently there is no evidence showing transmission of the virus through food.” This does include fresh produce.

Can I get sick from handling a food package contaminated with virus particles?

Coronaviruses have poor survival on surfaces. There is very low risk of disease spread through food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated or frozen temperatures.

The CDC states, “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, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” Follow good hygiene and hand washing practices before preparing food or eating to alleviate concerns due to handling food packaging.

What about imported products?

CDC statement: “Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.“

How should fresh produce be washed to reduce the risk of any food borne pathogen?

Remember, there is no evidence COVID-19 can be transmitted through food, but these guidelines are good basic practices for cooks at any time when cleaning produce.

  1. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  2. Remove the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
  3. Clean fruits and vegetables before peeling, by gently rubbing while holding them under running water. Do this even with produce you plan to peel. Germs on the peel or skin can get inside fruits and vegetables when you cut them. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash – use plain water only.
  4. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as potatoes, melons and cucumbers.
  5. Dry the produce with a clean paper towel.
  6. Refrigerate fruits and vegetable within 2 hours after you cut, peel or cook them. Or 1 hour if air temperature is 90°F or warmer. Chill them at 40°F or colder in a clean container.