Food safety in the time of COVID-19: Take-out food

How likely is a person to come down with COVID-19 from take-out food from a local restaurant or items purchased at the grocery store?  Luckily, this isn’t very likely to happen.

Coronovirus  is a respiratory virus. This means that it spreads primarily through the respiratory system, with the main transmission through person-to-person droplet infection. Someone who is infected coughs or sneezes, and those droplets somehow land on another person’s mouth or in their nose.  The virus particles in the droplets can be absorbed through the mucus membranes in the mouth or nose and may begin the process of causing illness. The CDC has also said that contact transmission may occurBy contact transmission, the virus particles are transmitted to the mucus membranes of the nose, mouth or even the eyes – usually by hand contact. There is no firm evidence that contact transmission is contributing in any siginficant way to the current pandemic.

In a bacterial foodborne illness like Salmonella,  a person consumes (or eats) contaminated food. Somehow some of the Salmonella evade destruction by stomach acid and make their way to the small intestine where the Salmonella bacteria start to grow. We call salmonellosis, the illness caused by Salmonella, a foodborne infection because the pathogen is growing in our body, just like germs in an infected cut. The growing bacteria make us sick. In order to contract coronovirus, you have to somehow breath in the virus particles or transfer them to the mucus membranes in your mouth, the two primary avenues of entry into the respiratory system. There is no evidence that coronovirus that gets into the stomach or your intestines can cause illness.

What about restaurant or take-out food? Laboratory studies suggest that coronovirus can survive on some surfaces, perhaps for up to a day.  If you are worried about take-out packages or grocery store items, simply washing your hands will help prevent any contact transmission that might occur. The coronovirus that causes COVID-19 is easily removed from surfaces with soap and water, this includes your hands. So wash your hands with warm, soapy water after handling anything, and before eating. If you bring in groceries or take-out food, wash your hands both before and after putting the food away or starting meal preparations.

While there are other precautions to take such as social social distancing that will help stop droplet transmission of the virus, the best food safety precaution is to wash your hands! Stay well and food-safe. Barb