How to protect yourself when going grocery shopping, ordering delivery

Posted at 3:20 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 15:26:37-04

Although we're all spending more time at home, we still have to eat. So what's the best way to stay safe at the grocery store or when getting delivery?

News 3 reached out to Dr. James Rogers, the director of food safety research and testing for Consumer Reports, to learn more.

Q: Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food?

A: No. There is currently no evidence that the disease is transmitted by food. That’s because it’s a respiratory virus, passed primarily from person to person in droplets when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.

Q: But we should still be practicing good food safety habits, right?

A: Absolutely right. In fact, such steps are perhaps more important these days. Now is not the time you want to get a foodborne illness and need to seek medical help from doctors who are overtaxed managing COVID-19 patients.

  • Wash your hands before and after preparing food—and during if you are handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs—as well as before you eat.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables.
  • Don’t eat raw dough or batter
  • Be sure to prevent cross-contamination
  • Refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers promptly.

Q: Does cooking kill the coronavirus?

A. The virus is probably susceptible to normal cooking temperatures, according to the WHO. That’s why you don’t need to cook food any differently from what you’d typically do for food safety. That’s:

· 145° F for fresh pork, beef roasts, steaks, chops, and fish;

· 160° F for egg dishes and beef;

· and 165° F for poultry, ground beef, casseroles, and leftovers, and to reheat precooked ham.

These are the temperatures required to kill pathogens that cause foodborne illness. They are also likely to kill the coronavirus.

Q: Are foods eaten raw, like fruits and vegetables, safe?

A. It’s theoretically possible that if someone who’s infected sneezes directly on an apple, you pick up that apple and then touch your face, you could get infected. But you’re much more likely to get infected standing next to that person at the apple bin. That’s why social distancing is so important. And why you should wash or sanitize your hands as soon as possible after touching things at the grocery store. If you are concerned, you can eat cooked produce instead of raw.

Q. Can you pick up the virus from food packaging?

A. The risk is low. Just because the virus is there, doesn’t mean that there are enough viable particles there to infect you. And the chances that any particular package was exposed to all the factors that would be necessary for it to have the virus on it in the first place are also low.

You can further reduce the risk by taking the following steps:

  • Wash your hands when you get home from the grocery store.
  • Place your groceries on a surface you can clean.
  • Unpack your groceries, clean the surface, and wash your hands again.
  • If you are particularly worried, you can wipe down glass jars, cans, plastic tubs, etc., with a disinfecting wipe or transfer the contents to a new container.

Q: Should you avoid takeout or delivery from restaurants?

A: No, it’s actually safer than going to the grocery store. It greatly reduces the need to interact with other people. To further reduce your risk, transfer your food to a plate when you get it, dispose of the containers, then wash your hands before you eat.