What do we know about food safety and COVID-19? COVID-19 is caused by one of a family of coronaviruses. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. The primary route of infection is through air-borne virus particles from the droplets of a sneeze or cough of an infected individual. If you breathe in virus-containing droplets of mucus or saliva from a cough or sneeze, the viruses can multiply in your respiratory tract and make you sick. About 15-30% of common colds every year are caused by a type of coronavirus. COVID-19 is a particularly virulent and contagious coronavirus. The last major coronavirus epidemic was in 2002 when SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) caused 800 deaths worldwide. COVID-19 is being referred to as SARS-COV-2.
Is COVID-19 going to make us sick through the food that we eat? There is no evidence that COVID-19 is a foodborne illness. The way that we get the COVID-19 illness is primarily from breathing in infected droplets from someone coughing or sneezing. Another way that we may get sick is from contact transmission. Contact transmission is touching a contaminated surface and transferring live virus particles to the mucus membranes in our nose, mouth or eyes by touching these areas. There isn’t any evidence that you can get COVID-19 from food.
How is COVID-19 different from something like Salmonella? Salmonellosis, the illness from Salmonella, is caused by a bacteria not a virus. When we get sick from Salmonella, we have eaten a food with Salmonella bacteria in it. The Salmonella bacteria somehow avoid being destroyed by the acid in our stomach and end up in our gut, our small intestine. In the warm environment of our small intestine, the Salmonella bacteria start growing and make us sick. A foodborne illness is a gastrointestinal illness, not a respiratory illness. Some people say that a foodborne illness gives them flu-like symptoms, but that is incorrect; the flu is a respiratory illness, not an illness in your gastrointestinal tract.
What’s the best way to avoid getting sick with COVID-19. All the experts tells us to practice social distancing and wash our hands before and after touching food, before putting hands to your mouth or face, after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, after petting animals or handling animal waste, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, after handling garbage…..and all those other common sense things your mother taught you! Stay well and food-safe, Barb