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Stability of COVID-19

Cloth Face Coverings

Food Supply

Shopping

Cooking & Food Preparation

Food Delivery

Dairy-related

Response to Media

Industry FAQs Also Related to the Consumer


COVID-19 FAQs Video Series

  1. Some people are still not wearing cloth face coverings when shopping, is it safe for me to pass by them in the shopping aisle?
  2. How long will the COVID-19 virus survive on food, food packaging and other surfaces?
  3. How do we know for sure COVID-19 is not transmitted though food?
  4. I hear a lot of big food companies are having problems with COVID-19, am I safer buying local food?
  5. I have a lot of cans in my pantry that are expired and frozen meat in my freezer that has been in there for a long time; is this food still safe to eat?
  6. I'm confused about how to handle my groceries when I come home, should I use chemicals to disinfect produce?
  7. Am I at risk of getting infected with COVID-19 if the food service worker or delivery person coughs or sneezes on my food and packaging?

COVID-19 FAQs Archive

Some of the FAQs from this page have been archived in an effort to highlight relevant information. Please note that information in this document may be outdated and links may no longer function.


Stability of COVID-19

Q: Does the type of food make a difference in increasing or lowering risk to COVID-19? (Hot/cooked food vs. cold/raw food – like a salad)

(Posted 3/30/20)

Not really. Fresh fruits, vegetables and leafy greens that will be consumed raw need to be prepared following hygienic conditions to protect from potential cross contamination from other foods that may carry foodborne microorganisms. For example, Salmonella in raw chicken.

Current guidance from USDA recommends rinsing produce (fruits and vegetables) under cold running water to remove any lingering dirt. If there is a firm surface, such as on apples or carrots, the surface can be scrubbed with a brush under running water without using soap. Do not use soap or a bleach solution. Detergents and bleach solutions are approved for surface application and are not meant to be consumed or used on food; washing your fresh produce in these solutions can make you sick.

For cooked foods, we know that the coronavirus is killed by cooking to the safe minimum cooking temperatures specified by FDA and USDA.

Q: I heard a report that COVID-19 could survive on surfaces for 17 days. Is it true?

(Posted 3/25/20)

A recent study of cruise ships published by CDC noted that COVID-19 RNA was identified on a variety of surfaces for up to 17 days. They add, this was before disinfection procedures had been conducted. The study also stated the data cannot be used to determine whether transmission occurred from contaminated surfaces, and further studies of fomite (objects or materials which are likely to carry infection, such as clothes, utensils, and furniture) transmission of COVID-19 are needed.

Takeaways for the food industry are:

CDC Report: Public Health Responses to COVID-19 Outbreaks on Cruise Ships — Worldwide, February–March 2020

Q: Does cooking foods kill the virus that causes COVID-19?

(Posted 3/19/20)

Yes. The coronavirus is killed by cooking to the safe minimum cooking temperatures specified by FDA and USDA.


Cloth Face Coverings

Q: I heard the CDC is now recommending people wear cloth face coverings, why?

(Posted 4/7/20)

First, it is critical to remember that this recommendation (cloth face coverings) is only effective if correctly implemented in addition to practicing social distancing of 6 feet or more from others, regularly washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, and not touching your face. The virus is thought to spread mainly from close person-to-person contact and by respiratory droplets. These COVID-19 containing droplets may be spread by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic COVID-19 positive individuals when they sneeze, speak, or cough. Current studies suggest that between 20-40% of individuals that have COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and thus may be spreading the virus unknowingly. For these reasons, CDC has issued a new policy on cloth face coverings with the intent of preventing either asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals from spreading the disease.

Note: CDC is NOT recommending the general public wear surgical masks (also known as facemasks) or N-95 respirators, these are still in shortage and should be reserved for health care workers.

Q: How effective are ‘home-made’ cloth face coverings?

(Posted 4/7/20)

Studies have shown that efficacy of cloth face coverings can vary by design, the material used, and even the brand of the material used. Following the CDC recommendations for construction are best practice. Remember that cloth face coverings may reduce the spread of virus from the wearer to others, but are not intended to protect the wearer and are not effective without practicing social distancing of at least 6 feet, frequent hand-washing with soap for 20 seconds, and not touching your face.

Q: When should I wear my cloth face covering?

(Posted 4/7/20)

You should wear your cloth face covering whenever you leave your home, ie: grocery shopping, to the pharmacy, or whenever someone visits your home where you have interactions with them. Having visitors to your home is highly discouraged, but if someone (repairman, health care provider, etc) must come to your home, you should wear your cloth face covering and remember to always keep 6 feet of distance between you and others.

Q: How often should I clean my cloth face covering?

(Posted 4/7/20)

You should wash your cloth face covering regularly based on frequency of use, or as soon as it is damp. Ideally cleaning is performed in a washing machine or by carefully washing with soap and water. Allow it to completely dry before reuse, drying it on the highest heat possible in the dryer. Remember to not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing or handling the cloth face covering and wash hands immediately after removing, handling, and cleaning.

Q: What other precautions should I be aware of when wearing my cloth face covering?

(Posted 4/7/20)

A cloth face covering is not intended to protect you, the wearer, but may offer some protection to others in the case that you are a pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic spreader. The cloth face covering needs to be implemented in addition to social distancing of 6 feet or more, hand-washing and avoiding touching your face or cloth face covering. If you are symptomatic, you need to self-isolate and reach out to your primary care provider. A cloth face covering will not allow you to venture out without putting others at risk. To protect yourself, you should be following social distancing practices, regularly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and not touching your face.


Food Supply

Q: I want to help support local farmers, where can I purchase NY products?

(Posted 4/8/20)

The NYS Taste NY program is a collaborative effort to promote and retail locally grown and produced NYS food and farm products supported by the NYS Office of the Governor, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and, of course, local farm and food producers. A recently unveiled online e-commerce site is now available at Shop Taste NY, where consumers can find shelf-stable Taste NY items for sale that are normally available only at select Taste NY locations.

Q: Is there any legitimate threat of a food shortage?

(Posted 3/30/20)

No. There are no nationwide shortages of food, although in some cases the inventory of certain foods at your grocery store might be temporarily low due to mass buying and a normal lag before stores can restock. Food production and manufacturing are widely dispersed throughout the US and there are currently no wide-spread disruptions reported in the supply chain. Food production is classified as an essential function that will not be restricted due to COVID-19.

Q: Why is social distancing and self-quarantine important to keep the food supply chain running properly? What is the food supply chain actually made up of? (Farmers, drivers, stores, etc.)

(Posted 3/26/20)

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted mainly by person-to-person through respiratory droplets. When people are in close contact, defined as less than 6 feet, there is a possibility that respiratory droplets from an infected person can land in the mouths, noses or eyes of nearby people, eventually reaching the lungs where the virus reproduces and produces the lung disease. The best way to prevent the illness is to avoid being exposed to the coronavirus, hence one important measure (in addition to frequent hand-washing) is to keep social distancing of at least 6 feet. Any infected person must avoid contact with other people by self-quarantining for the period of time specified by their healthcare provider. In order to keep the food supply chain running properly, we need healthy workers to perform their jobs, and that can only be achieved by following current safe food handling procedures that include social distancing and self-quarantine.

The food supply includes farmers, packers, producers, suppliers, storage facilities, manufacturers, processors, warehouses, transportation systems, food/grocery retail stores, food preparation for immediate consumption establishments (restaurants, cafeterias, pizza shops, etc.) and other food distribution systems (such as online purchasing).

Q: Do I need to stockpile as many groceries and supplies as I can? Is there a shortage of food and supplies I should be concerned about?

(Posted 3/24/20)

No. Only buy what your family needs for 1-2 weeks, practicing social distancing to minimize contact with people. It is important to remember that many families may be unable to buy a supply of food and water for weeks in advance due to economic limitations. Consumer demand has recently been exceptionally high – especially for grocery, household cleaning, and some healthcare products because of COVID-19 anxiety. Food supply and freight flows are not disrupted, but stores need time to restock.


Shopping

Q: Should I be concerned about food packaging being contaminated with coronavirus? Should I try to clean and sanitize food packages before I open them?

(Updated 4/30/20)

No. Based on the CDC information, coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with any type of food. For general food safety, it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before preparing or eating food. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.

In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely a very low risk of spread from food products or packaging; for example, on cardboard the concentration of coronavirus is split by half every three hours. It is not advisable to try to clean and sanitize food packages before opening due to the risk of leaving chemical residues in the food. It is best to wash your hands frequently, especially before and after handling food and after removing packaging materials. 

All food preparation and manufacturing establishments are required to follow FDA and USDA food safety rules, including the maintenance of clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces.

Q: Is it safe to buy and consume fresh “open” (non-packaged) produce and veggies? Should I take any specific precautions? I am worried that people infected with COVID-19 have touched the products and that this product can transmit the disease.

(Updated 4/21/20)

The most important advice is to practice social distancing and frequent handwashing. You are better off buying fresh produce in one store rather than visiting 3 stores to find frozen product! Virtually all food safety experts consider the risk of acquiring COVID-19 through handling fresh produce extremely low. There also is NO evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through consumption of contaminated foods. Hence the main risk that can be managed would be transmission of COVID-19 from a contaminated surface (such as the outside of an apple) to hands and from there to nose and eyes.
Managing this risk can be achieved with a few simple steps, including:

  1. Washing hands after returning from shopping
  2. Frequently washing hands during food preparation
  3. Rinsing the outside of fruits and vegetables with water
  4. Removing outer surfaces (e.g., outer lettuce leaves) before consumption

For example, for avocados, one should rinse the exterior of the avocado and then cut the skin and flesh to the seed and scoop out the flesh with a clean spoon, trying not to cross contaminate the flesh with the exterior of the avocado.

Importantly, these are all practices that food safety experts have followed even before COVID-19 as these practices also reduce the risks of other foodborne illnesses. However, going too far in trying to reduce an already low risk, can lead to other risks that are also important and relevant. Hence there are also some “DO NOTs” that experts recommend:

  • DO NOT stop eating fresh fruits and vegetables. They provide considerable nutritional benefits that help maintain personal health and hence enhance the ability to fight off infections
  • DO NOT wash your fruits and vegetables in soap, sanitizer, disinfectant, acid or any other chemical.
  • DO NOT mix different sanitizers, disinfectants, acids or other chemicals, as their inappropriate use can create other health hazards.
  • DO NOT wash your fruits and vegetables in soap
  • DO NOT mix different sanitizer combinations, as their inappropriate use can create other health hazards
  • DO NOT wash produce in sinks or with utensils that may have been exposed to raw products (e.g., raw eggs, raw meat), as this can lead to cross contamination with microbes that can cause foodborne illness (such as Salmonella).

FDA – Shopping for Food During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Q: How should we treat packaging? How should we handle other groceries or make sure they’re safe?

(Updated 4/1/20)

While COVID-19 is not considered foodborne, there are some practices you should use to reduce the already small risk of transmission of COVID-19 through surfaces. When you come home from shopping you should place the shopping bags on the floor and first wash your hands. Afterwards, remove the food from the shopping bags, discard or recycle single use bags or put away reusable bags; there is no need to discard or sanitize any part of food packaging. Wash your hands again after food has been stored away before touching your face or the food. If the shopping bag touched the counter or a surface, clean the surface with a sanitizing wipe or solution.

Q: Should we be using reusable bags? If we use reusable bags, how should we keep them safe?

(Posted 3/30/20)

Reusable bags shouldn’t present additional risks if the reusable bags have been used and cleaned and/or washed properly. If you have raw meat, poultry or seafood in those reusable bags, they should be cleaned with a disinfecting wipe or solution to remove any possible cross contamination. If using canvas or washable bags, wash them in hot water with detergent. Double bagging raw meats, poultry, and seafood, as well as putting them in an insulated bag with an ice pack is the recommended safe handling practice.

Q: Should we buy frozen or canned foods instead of fresh right now?

(Posted 3/30/20)

No, assuming you are washing your hands before and after handling the food you are preparing, there is no difference in terms of your risk for COVID-19 exposure. Remember to practice safe food handling practices at all times, avoid cross contamination of raw meats, poultry, seafood with ready to eat foods, sanitizing your food contact surfaces, and washing your hands.

Q: What are best behaviors that people should follow when it comes to food shopping right now? (Frequency, ordering online vs shopping in person, grocery store hygiene, etc.)

(Posted 3/26/20)

To maintain a continuous supply of food and to reduce the risk of coronavirus contamination, it is recommended that families shop for what is needed for 1-2 weeks, practicing social distancing to minimize contact with people, implementing frequent hand-washing, and avoiding touching their faces (nose, eyes and mouth). It is important to remember that many families may be unable to buy a supply of food for weeks in advance due to economic limitations. Consumer demand has recently been exceptionally high – especially for grocery, household cleaning, and some healthcare products because of COVID-19 anxiety. Food supply and freight flows are not disrupted, but stores need time to restock.

If shopping at a grocery store in person, make sure to wash your hands before shopping (or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer), as soon as you return home, and after all the purchased items are put away. It is also prudent to wipe counters and other surfaces where you unpacked your groceries. Many stores offer home delivery or pick up options to limit person-to-person exposure. Online shopping is another safe way to purchase food.


Cooking & Food Preparation

Q: Should people use vinegar to clean their produce right now? What is the recommended way to treat/wash fresh produce for at-home consumption?

(Posted 12/14/20)

No, there is no data to suggest vinegar is effective at removing contamination on produce. There is limited research that shows vinegar to be somewhat effective against different types of bacteria and viruses in laboratory studies using vinegar with higher acetic acid concentrations than those typically available to consumers and requiring extended contact times. It is also important to note that none of this research was looking at removing microbial contamination on produce. Research has shown that removing contamination once the produce is contaminated is very difficult to remove because the surfaces of many produce items are highly variable (e.g., netted, textured). This is why many farmers use Good Agricultural Practices to prevent microbial contamination during the production of fresh fruits and vegetables and why many retailers have sanitation programs in place to prevent cross-contamination at the grocery store.

Current guidance from USDA recommends rinsing produce under cold running water to remove any remaining soil or dirt that may harbor microbial contamination. If the produce has a firm surface, such as on apples or carrots, the surface can be scrubbed with a brush. It is not recommended to use any other substances to wash the produce (e.g., bleach, soap). Ingesting bleach, other sanitizers, or detergents can be dangerous and lead to other health issues. Just rinse with cool running water right before consumption.

Q: Should I use vinegar to kill bacteria and viruses on food contact surfaces?

(Posted 12/14/20)

No. Vinegar is not very effective on either viruses or bacteria in settings that consumers are likely to use, so overall is not a good option. There is limited research that shows vinegar to be minimally effective against some types of bacteria and viruses in laboratory studies but they use vinegar with a higher concentration of acetic acid than what is commercially available to consumers, and the contact time necessary to result in effective pathogen reduction is extensive. For instance, one study that looked at the ability of vinegar to kill Mycobacterium tuberculosis required 30 minutes of contact with 6% acetic acid vinegar. Most commercial vinegars are less concentrated at 4-5% acetic acid. Another study found that vinegar was not as effective as other household cleaners when shorter contact times (e.g., 30 seconds to 5 minutes) were used. This study also showed vinegar was only effective on two types of bacteria (Staphylococcus aureusEscherichia coli O157:H7) and it was not effective against all the microorganisms tested. The take-away message is that vinegar is a poor choice for sanitizing food contact surfaces. The pathogenic microorganisms have different resistance to vinegar, and it will only be effective for very specific pathogens with extended contact times and high acid concentrations.

Q: Is it safe to bake cookies for family, friends and neighbors this holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic?

(Posted 12/10/20)

Currently, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through food. However, it is important that you use good COVID-19 prevention strategies and food safety practices when you bake and handle holiday cookies for your family, friends and neighbors. First, if you are sick with COVID-19 or any other illness, even if the symptoms are mild, you should not prepare food for others. Though passing COVID-19 through food is highly unlikely, you could spread other microorganisms through food if you are ill. It is most important that you are not ill when preparing food for others. Follow baking instructions (e.g., time, temperature) to ensure your holiday cookies go through a ‘kill step’ when they are baked in the oven. This will ensure the raw dough receives the necessary temperature and length of time required to destroy any potentially harmful microorganisms that may be present. Harmful microorganisms are also the reason why you should not eat raw cookie dough. Handling the baked cookies after they come out of the oven is another step where they are vulnerable to becoming contaminated. It is important to wash your hands and make sure all kitchen utensils and food contact surfaces, such as counter tops and cooling racks, are clean. While the cookies are cooling in your kitchen, make sure they are protected in the open environment from pets and other members of your household who may not have washed their hands.

Q: How should I wash fresh produce? Should I mist my produce with a very diluted bleach solution (a teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water) and let it air dry before I eat it to avoid contracting COVID-19?

(Updated 4/8/20)

Fresh produce should only be washed with cold running water. Currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, most likely to be transmitted person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Current guidance from USDA recommends rinsing produce under cold running water to remove any lingering dirt. If there is a firm surface, such as on apples or carrots, the surface can be scrubbed with a brush. NEVER use soap or a bleach solution. Detergents and bleach solutions are not meant to be consumed or used on food, and washing your fresh produce in these solutions can make you sick.

Ingesting bleach, other sanitizers, and detergents can be dangerous and lead to other health issues.

Q: Beyond basic food hygiene, is extra precaution now warranted while preparing food in the kitchen?

(Posted 3/30/20)

For both commercial and home kitchens, it is important to reinforce the need for washing hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before handling/preparing food, when handling a different type of food, after finishing food preparation and before consuming food.

Commercial kitchens are required to follow FDA and USDA food safety rules, including the maintenance of clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces. The added precaution is social distancing of at least 6 feet. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted mainly by person-to-person through respiratory droplets. When people are in close contact, defined as less than 6 feet, there is a possibility that respiratory droplets from an infected person can land in the mouths, noses or eyes of nearby people, eventually reaching the lungs where the virus reproduces and produces the lung disease. 
 
For home kitchens, it is also very important to clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces including the kitchen sink. For example, raw meat and poultry carry microbes (such as Salmonella and Campylobacter) that are killed through proper cooking, but utensils and surfaces that were in contact with the raw meat and chicken, if not properly cleaned and sanitized, could transfer contaminants to food that will be eaten raw, such as vegetables and cooked foods, if they are contacted by the utensils or placed on these surfaces.

To clean the surfaces and utensils, wash with warm, soapy water to remove most microbes that can cause illness. Allow utensils and surfaces to air dry or dry the surfaces and utensils clean with single-use or paper towels. If you use kitchen towels, wash them frequently in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

Clean surfaces are now ready to be sanitized, to kill the remaining microbes. For commercially prepared sanitizers, follow the instructions listed in the label. Sanitizing wipes are also a good option. The most common sanitizer is chlorine bleach, diluted for surface sanitizing at the rate of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach (5-6% sodium hypochlorite strength) per gallon of clean water (or 1 teaspoon per quart of clean water). Utensils and cutting boards can be submerged in the diluted bleach solution, while you can apply or spray the sanitizing solution on surfaces. Leave the sanitizing solution on the surface for about 10 min to be effective, then wipe the surfaces clean with a paper towel.

Dishwasher safe utensils and cutting boards can also be cleaned and sanitized in the dishwasher using the sanitizing wash cycle and drying option.

Q: If someone is sick with COVID-19, can they still prepare food for the family?

(Posted 3/19/20)

No. A person sick with COVID-19, even if only showing mild symptoms, must separate from other people and animals in the home. Follow the CDC recommendations:

Q: Now that I am cooking at home more frequently, what are some tips on how to prepare, cook and serve home meals that keep my family safe from food-borne illness?

(Posted 3/19/20)

Fight BAC supports consumers with resources to fight food borne illness with English and Spanish recipes, instructions, and step by step guides.

More technical food safety fact sheets addressing specific consumer topics like safe usage of cutting boards, temperature controls, can be found on the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Services.

Q: How do I properly clean and sanitize food preparation areas at home to protect my family from microbial contamination including the coronavirus?

(Posted 3/19/20)

It is very important to clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces including the kitchen sink. For example, raw meat and poultry carry microbes (such as Salmonella and Campylobacter) that are killed through proper cooking, but utensils and surfaces that were in contact with the raw meat and chicken, if not properly cleaned and sanitized, could transfer contaminants to food that will be eaten raw, such as vegetables and cooked foods, if they are contacted by the utensils or placed on these surfaces.

To clean the surfaces and utensils, wash with warm, soapy water to remove most microbes that can cause illness. Allow utensils and surfaces to air dry or dry the surfaces and utensils clean with single-use or paper towels. If you use kitchen towels, wash them frequently in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

Clean surfaces are now ready to be sanitized, to kill the remaining microbes. For commercially prepared sanitizers, follow the instructions listed in the label. Sanitizing wipes are also a good option. The most common sanitizer is chlorine bleach, diluted for surface sanitizing at the rate of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach (5-6% sodium hypochlorite strength) per gallon of clean water (or 1 teaspoon per quart of clean water). Utensils and cutting boards can be submerged in the diluted bleach solution, while you can pour or spray the sanitizing solution on surfaces. Leave the sanitizing solution on the surface for about 10 min to be effective, then wipe the surfaces clean with a paper towel.

Dishwasher safe utensils and cutting boards can also be cleaned and sanitized in the dishwasher using the sanitizing wash cycle and drying option.

Q: I have frozen, canned or dried foods at home that are past the “best by/sell by/expiration date”, are they safe to consume?

(Posted 3/19/20)

Frozen foods are safe to eat because food poisoning microbes do not grow in the freezer. They may be dry or may not taste as good but they will be safe.

Canned and shelf-stable foods (cans and jars) that have been stored in dry, dark, cool pantries/areas will last for years, as long as they show no visible damage (no rust, dents or swelling).

Packaged dried foods (cereal, pasta, cookies, candy, rice, legumes, flour, sugar) are safe past the “best by” date but the quality may decrease over time, developing off-flavors or becoming stale. Proper repacking/closing after opening will extend the shelf-life by protecting the foods from outside moisture and insects.


Food Delivery

Q: What guidance do you have for delivery drivers to safeguard themselves and their customers? What should customers do to safeguard themselves when the food arrives?

(Posted 3/26/20)

The best way to prevent the illness is to avoid being exposed to the coronavirus, hence the most important measures are:

  1. To wash hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, or thoroughly rubbing hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer or sanitizing wipes if it is not possible to wash hands;
  2. To keep social distancing of at least 6 feet. The driver should sanitize hands before picking up the food to be delivered and after delivering the food. Instead of ringing the bell, it is better to call or text the customer to indicate that the food has been delivered and left at the doorstep.

Based on the CDC information, coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with any type of food. If a person is concerned about the possible surface contamination of the delivered bag, container or package, in the unlikely event that a person carrying the coronavirus has touched those surfaces, then you can minimize the very small risk by:

  • Paying (and tipping) in advance (electronically) to avoid the person-to-person interaction.
  • Letting the driver leave the food at the doorstep. Wait until the driver is at least 6 feet away before picking up the food.
  • Remove the food from the takeout bag/package/container and dispose of or recycle them appropriately. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. It is also prudent to wipe counters and other surfaces where you unpacked the food.
  • Wash your hands frequently before handling food, while preparing food, and before serving and consuming food.

CDC – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), How It Spreads

Q: How do I know that commercially prepared food (from grocery stores, restaurants, online ordering) delivered to my home/office is safe?

(Posted 3/19/20)

Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 by food. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses, like norovirus and hepatitis A, that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission. All food preparation and manufacturing establishments are required to follow FDA and USDA food safety rules, including the maintenance of clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces.


Dairy-related

Q: Can I freeze milk?

(Updated 4/8/20)

Fluid milk can be frozen if you want to keep it for a long time (months), however note that upon thawing, the texture of the milk may change and the fat/cream may separate. To our knowledge, there is no current disruption in the milk supply as dairy processing plants are considered essential and functioning at 100% capacity, so fresh, pasteurized milk should be in normal supply. If you decide you need to freeze milk, make sure you take some milk out of the container, as it will expand (about 10%) when it freezes, therefore a certain headspace (empty space) will be needed to keep the container from breaking in the freezer. Remove enough so that the top level of the milk is about 2 inches below the top of the container. Also, it is NOT recommended to freeze milk or any other liquids in glass containers due to the high probability of breakage. In addition, it would be a good idea to write the date when you put it in the freezer on the container, as the ‘sell by’ date will no longer apply. You can keep it for much longer than that, but only use milk that has not already expired. When you want to use the milk, thaw it by placing the container in the refrigerator or in cold water.

Q: I heard that milk contains some anti-viral proteins and peptides like lactoferrin; are people that drink milk protected from COVID-19? I heard that in China this is what they recommend?

(Posted 3/26/20)

There are currently no peer-reviewed studies that support any claims that specific foods, or their components, provide significant protection against infection with COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 infection is to practice social distancing (at least 6 feet), wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.


Response to Media

Q: I am constantly being bombarded by different ads that claim they have a cure for COVID-19; is there a cure?

(Posted 4/8/20)

There are currently no reports of an effective cure for COVID-19 that would be available to the general public. Several research groups and pharmaceutical companies around the world are working on developing a vaccine that would prevent infection with COVID-19. Information on when an effective vaccine might become available is not known yet.

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 infection is to practice social distancing (at least 6 feet), wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands. CDC is also recommending the use of simple cloth face coverings as a voluntary public health measure in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). If you get sick, follow the guidelines from CDC to protect others and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Currently, any product (human drugs, animal drugs, medical devices, biological products, foods, dietary supplements or cosmetics) being advertised and sold as being able to cure COVID-19 would be considered an unlawful sale of medical product. All unlawful sale of medical product should be reported to FDA using MedWatch Online Voluntary Reporting Form.

Q: I saw a video on YouTube from MD Jeffrey VanWingen recommending disinfecting every food package that comes from stores/deliveries, and washing fruits and vegetables with soap to avoid contracting COVID-19. Why is this group not recommending the practices this doctor illustrates?

(Posted 3/27/20)

USDA is specifically advising against the use of soap and other detergents and sanitizers to wash produce since detergents and sanitizers will absorb into produce which may lead to health issues upon ingestion.

Currently, there is no evidence of food, including produce and food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Not a single positive case of COVID-19 has been linked to food. The coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, most likely to be transmitted person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Current guidance from USDA recommends rinsing produce (fruits and vegetables) under cold running water to remove any lingering dirt. If there is a firm surface, such as on apples or carrots, the surface can be scrubbed with a brush under running water without using soap. 

Q: I saw that an article in VICE says “Can I Get Coronavirus from Food? Scientists Say Yes and to Step Away from the Deli Meats.” Is that true?

(Posted 3/21/20)

Answer (by Martin Wiedmann, who takes full personal responsibility for this answer): This article presents unsubstantiated and un-supported personal opinions and theoretical possibilities. It is important to reiterate that FDA and food safety agencies across the US agree that there is not evidence for foodborne transmission of COVID-19. Just because something is possible, that does not mean it will or has happened or happens frequently enough to present a concern.


Please also refer to appropriate state and federal guidance for answers to your questions. State and federal guidance may be different than what is detailed here or may have changed since this answer was posted.