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Food safety in the age of COVID-19

A woman washes a bunch of carrots in a sink.

The fact that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can live on surfaces has many people worried about food safety. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no reason to think that the virus can be spread by food. That doesn't mean that you can forgo basic food safety habits, however.

A few rules to eat by

Pandemic or not, you should always handle and prepare food safely. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and FoodSafety.gov, that means you should:

  • Clean and disinfect countertops and other surfaces in your kitchen before and after cooking.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling food, and after wiping countertops and other surfaces with chemicals.
  • Wash fresh produce before eating, even if you plan to remove the skin.
  • Separate raw meat, poultry and fish from other foods.
  • Cook foods to the proper temperatures.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours—or within one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees.

When you wash your hands, use soap and water. And scrub for at least 20 seconds to be sure they're clean.

And although there's no reason to think the virus can be transmitted through food, it's best not to share your food, drinks or utensils with others.

Ordering in?

While food isn't likely to spread the virus, being around other people can. So now may be a good time to look into having your groceries delivered, especially if you're at high risk for severe COVID-19. Many grocery stores are now offering this service. And many restaurants are offering takeout and delivery.

Here are some tips to help protect yourself and others when ordering food for takeout or delivery:

  • Stay 6 feet from others whenever you can.
  • If possible, pay for your food online or over the phone to help minimize contact.
  • Ask the delivery person to leave your packages at the door or on the porch.
  • Don't eat out of takeout containers. Serve the food on your own dishes, and use your own utensils.
  • Throw away all bags and packaging, and wash your hands well after handling them.

Remember, healthy eating helps your immune system stay strong. So continue to make healthy choices about what to order and put on your plates.

Find more resources for healthy living during the pandemic in our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 5/6/2020

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