Q: Can the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 be transmitted through food consumption?
A: Despite all the bad news about Covid-19, the good news is that food is unlikely to be a source of transmission. According to the CDC, the coronavirus is mostly spread through respiratory droplets; there’s no current evidence that people are getting sick by eating contaminated food.
Basic hygiene practices apply when it comes to groceries and prepared meals, such as washing hands for at least 20 seconds before handling food or containers. Although it is possible to contract the virus by touching contaminated food containers and then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes, the risk is low. To be safe, you may want to immediately throw away any disposable bags and rewash your hands before putting food on plates.
When it comes to store-bought groceries, the risk of transmission is similarly low. As with prepared foods, you may want to discard any disposable bags or outer cartons or containers before putting food away, but sealed inner bags and linings—such as those inside cereal boxes—pose no risk.
As an extra precaution, you can leave out and not touch nonperishable goods for 72 hours, since that’s the amount of time the virus can survive on some surfaces, such as plastic. Fruits and vegetables only need to be given a good rinse with water before use.
The biggest coronavirus risk when it comes to food will likely be your dining companions. To be safe, don’t share utensils or glasses with others, and make sure to stay at least six feet apart if you haven’t been isolating together during the pandemic.
This article first appeared in the August 2020 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.