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Food safety guidelines, Health Guidelines

The Pandemic currently has us all living in the state of the unknown. Every aspect of our regular lives is now in question. Can we go out to dinner and greet our friends? Can we buy the food we would typically purchase at our local grocery store? Should we be taking extra precautions when washing our vegetables?

As you can imagine grocery shopping remains necessary throughout this pandemic. And many people have questions about how to grocery shop safely. So we are here to answer some important questions regarding food safety guidelines during the pandemic.

Can coronavirus spread through food?

To date, there has been no reporting of transmission of COVID-19 through food items.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking precautions. You should wash your hands before and after handling your groceries. You should also wipe down the packaging before placing food in the pantry or fridge. This will help eliminate any bacteria that may be on the packages from the importing process. The FDA’s food safety guidelines also recommend buying only 1-2 weeks’ worth of groceries at a time to avoid creating unnecessary demand and temporary shortages.

How much do I need to be washing my Food?

The FDA’s food safety guidelines recommend that you rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water as you would regularly. This includes foods with skins and rinds that may not be eaten. They also recommend scrubbing firm produce with a clean produce brush before storing and eating. For canned goods, they recommend cleaning the lids before opening.

When unpacking groceries you should refrigerate or freeze meat and other perishables like eggs, poultry, lettuces, herbs, etc. within two hours of purchasing.

What should I wash my produce with?

The CDC (center for disease control) health guidelines state that you SHOULD NOT wash any produce with soap, bleach, sanitizer, alcohol, disinfectant, or any other cleaning chemicals. Gently rinsing your fresh fruits and vegetables under cold running tap water will work perfectly fine.

Salt, pepper, vinegar, and lemon or lime juice have not been proven to be effective at removing germs and bacteria in produce. So skip the DIY cleaning methods and stick to your cold water at home.

Am I at risk by going grocery shopping?

The CDC health guidelines state that the risk of getting COVID-19 from food products, food packaging, or bags is thought to be extremely low. Currently, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where the infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging, or grocery shopping bags.

Although some individuals that work in grocery stores may have ultimately contracted COVID-19 there is no evidence of this virus spreading to consumers through food or food packaging that workers may have handled.

Should I alter my diet in order to become healthier?

To help cope with the stress and mental health implications of the pandemic the CDC recommends you take very good care of your body starting with nutrition.

Certain vitamins and minerals may have effects on how our immune system works to fight off infections as well as swelling and inflammation. The best way to obtain these nutrients (Vitamin C & D) is through food. Vitamin C is found in many fruits while vitamin D is found in low-fat milk and seafood. Zinc can also be found in meat, nuts, legumes, and seeds.

Getting the right amount of nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains is crucial for your health.

How safe is it to get takeout or delivery?

No research has pointed towards food being a vehicle of transportation for COVID-19. However, if someone has tested positive for the virus and coughs or sneezes on your package there is potential for you to contract the virus. But experts would agree that your risk of contracting the virus through take out food is very low.

If you are concerned about contracting COVID-19 the best advice would be to thoroughly wash your hands after handling the packaging and before you eat the food. Take your food out of the packaging and put it on a plate, make sure to wash your hands, and then begin eating.

Can COVID-19 live on surfaces?

We have seen a few studies showing that the virus can live on various surfaces. It can live on plastic for a few days and cardboard for 24 hours. This begs the question- How concerned should we be about our food packaging?

The FDA and the CDC health guidelines state that this scenario is a pretty low-risk situation. However, it is still advised to clean surfaces and sanitize counters that may have touched plastic or cardboard packaging. Just be aware of all the surfaces in your home that you place things on and also cook on top of.

How long should I cook my food? At what temperature does the virus die?

Luckily the COVID-19 virus is not more resistant to heat than other usual bacterias and viruses found in our foods.

It is recommended for good hygiene practice that foods should be thoroughly cooked at least 158 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the virus dies at a lower temperature than other more common bacterias you can go about cooking your food as you typically would do so.

Is it safe to buy food from farmer’s markets? Animal markets? Or wet markets?

It should not be a problem to buy from these places as long it is possible to maintain a safe distance from other shoppers and staff in the area. Do your research and make sure it is possible to wash and sanitize your hands in the facility.

Also, be sure that Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Hygienic Practices (GHP) standards are being met within the markets. If these standards are not in compliance then you should avoid shopping there for the time being.

Now that the most common questions have been answered with the recommendation of the FDA and the CDC hopefully you can go grocery shopping with ease. You should be able to make a homemade meal for your family and not wonder if you are doing everything you can to protect them.

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