How to safely handle food during the coronavirus crisis

August 19, 2020

At this point, no evidence suggests that you can get COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) from touching or eating food. However, it’s important to take some precautions when shopping for food or preparing food, especially if you are pregnant.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets when someone coughs, sneezes or talks. However, it may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Food or food packaging may carry the virus.

Steps to stay safe while food shopping

Here are some precautions you can take while shopping for food and other items:

  • Avoid shopping if you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, which include a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
  • Only visit stores in person when you absolutely need to. If possible, order groceries and other items online for home delivery or curbside pickup.
  • Check your store’s website or call to find out if they have special shopping hours for people who are at higher risk for getting the virus.

If you must shop in person:

  • Write a shopping list before you go.
  • Buy just 1 to 2 weeks’ worth of groceries at a time.
  • Wear a face covering or mask while you are in the store.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to clean the handles of the shopping cart or basket.
  • Practice social distancing while shopping by staying at least 6 feet from others.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • If you must handle money, a card or use a keypad to pay, use hand sanitizer right after paying.
  • Use hand sanitizer after leaving the store.
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds when you get home.

How to safely handle food and packages at home

There is no evidence that food or the packaging it comes in carries COVID-19. However, you may choose to take these steps as an extra precaution:

  • Wipe down product packaging (boxes, plastic containers) with disinfectant wipes and allow them to air dry.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that aren’t eaten, like bananas and watermelon. Do not wash produce with soap, bleach, sanitizer, alcohol, disinfectant or any other chemical.
  • Scrub firm produce like oranges and lemons with a clean produce brush.
  • Clean the lids on canned goods before opening.
  • Wash your hands after putting your groceries away.

Is takeout food from restaurants safe?

The risk of getting COVID-19 from takeout or drive-thru meals is thought to be very low. Many restaurants now offer no-contact takeout and delivery to decrease the risk of transmitting the virus. You may want to take extra precautions, including:

  • Paying online or on the phone when you order.
  • Asking for deliveries to be left in a safe spot outside your house (such as your front porch or lobby), with no person-to-person interaction.
  • Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after handling takeout containers and again before eating.
  • Transferring food to a clean dish using clean utensils.
  • Disinfecting any surfaces that had takeout containers on them after eating.

What is food poisoning?

Although getting COVID-19 from food is very unlikely, it’s still important to be careful about the foods you eat. Some foods can make you sick with food poisoning if not prepared or handled safely. During pregnancy, food poisoning can cause serious problems for you and your baby, including premature birth, miscarriage and stillbirth. Food poisoning happens when you eat or drink something with harmful bacteria (germs) in it. Normal changes in your body during pregnancy may make you more likely to get food poisoning. Wash your hands before handling food and learn how to handle food safely. Don’t eat foods that commonly cause food poisoning, like unpasteurized milk, undercooked poultry, meat or fish.

If you think you have food poisoning or COVID-19, call your health care provider right away.