We know there is a lot of uncertainty right now when it comes to food, grocery shopping, and the coronavirus. So we turned to the experts to get answers and current information about best practices when it comes to grocery shopping and handling food. Here are the most frequently asked questions we’ve been hearing and what the experts have to say in response.
NOTE: The situation is changing by the day, and sometimes, by the hour right now. We spoke with experts and gathered information on March 25th. Things may have changed by the time you get to reading this. We will try to update this post as we learn more, but for the most up-to-date information related to food safety, be sure to head to the CDC’s or FDA’s website.
Is it safe to go to the grocery store?
The main concern with going to the grocery store has to do with coming in contact with someone who is sick. This is where social distancing comes in; the CDC recommends that you stay at least six feet away from other shoppers. Another point of concern is the grocery cart handle. Stores have really increased their sanitation policy and we’ve seen store associates outside wiping down cart handles after each out. If that doesn’t make you comfortable, then use those sanitizing wipes that are available at the entrances of your store to wipe down the cart before you shop. Be sure to wash your hands when you get home and when you’re done unpacking the groceries. And do not touch your face between these steps.
See Our “Safe Shopping” Guide below
Can you get the Coronavirus from fresh produce?
There is no evidence that fresh produce (or any other food, or other product/material) can transmit the coronavirus/COVID-19. The FDA directly addresses food safety concerns at the bottom of their FAQ page here where they answer your questions about the people who are in contact with the food you are consuming before it comes into your possession.
Do I need to wipe down cans, bags, and boxes with disinfecting wipes when I get them home?
“Based on what we know today, that’s not something I would suggest,” says Ben Chapman, Ph.D., a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. He just doesn’t think it’s necessary. Because your chances of getting the virus this way are just so, so low. But hey, if it makes you feel better to wipe things down and you still have wipes, it doesn’t hurt, he says.
“With all the uncertainty and evolving information and anxiety, if it gives people a sense of control, that’s totally valid.”
What he says is necessary, though, is a good post-grocery-handling hand-washing session: “I’m going to wash my hands after I touch the groceries as a way to stop that very low chance of transmission.” So he puts everything away at home, then washes his hands, and “I am really really careful in the process of preparing food about hand-washing.” Meaning, he washes his hands at multiple steps along the way of food prep. Wash your hands after you take those mushrooms out of the carton. After you open that can of tomato paste. Again after opening that box of pasta. You get the point.
What’s the best way to wash fruits & veggies?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a special wash to clean your fresh produce. Wash it with cool running water, says Amanda Deering, Ph.D., an Extension specialist in Purdue University’s Department of Food Science. And not with soap. “I see a lot of stuff out there saying to use soap and water because that’s how we advise people to wash their hands,” she said, “however the FDA has never advised that. The recommendation is to use a clean vegetable brush especially if it’s anything that has a harder surface like a cantaloupe, just brush it under cool running water. But make sure you clean that veggie brush with soap and water and rinse it [after each use].
What is the best way to store fresh produce?
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What food can I be eating to boost my immune system?
A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons against cardiovascular disease. Eating healthy doesn’t mean dieting or giving up the foods you love. Here is what the Unites States Association of Preventative Medicine suggests:
- Eat more plants! When you eat a vegetarian diet, be sure to add foods rich in iron, Vitamin B12, Calcium, and Zinc.
- Limit sweets, fatty or processed meats, solid fats like butter, and salty or highly processed foods.
- Avoid bad fats (solid or saturated fats from animal sources like meat, dairy, and tropical oils) and incorporate healthier fats (nontropical liquid oils, nuts and seeds, avocados, and fatty fish) into your diet.
- Stock your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Ditch the processed and junk foods!
- Instead of eliminating foods you love, concentrate on eating smaller portions.
- Eat reasonable portions, even when you’re served more than you need (Split an entrée when dining out).
Does heating or cooking food kill the virus?
Short answer? Yes. As for a specific recommendation, the best data we have is [to reach and maintain] 149-degrees F for three minutes, Chapman says. But, once again for anyone in the back, wash your produce before you cook it.
We put together a Top 15 List of our favorite Immune Boosting foods to make it even easier:
- Fresh peppers
- Legumes (Black-eyed peas)
- Fresh Berries
What’s the best process for washing hands?
For this question, we found this to be a helpful video:
Here are 7 Steps to Safe Shopping for Fresh Produce: