As the COVID-19 pandemic ushers in a new normal of social distancing and disinfectants, people have become hyper aware of surfaces they come in contact with—including food. While concerns mount about the safest way to acquire meals and groceries, one question remains: Can you contract novel coronavirus through food?
In a word: No. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report that right now, there’s no evidence that food is likely to transmit COVID-19. And from what experts know about other strains of coronavirus, respiratory viruses are generally not foodborne, says food microbiology researcher and associate professor at University of Illinois Michael J. Miller. Instead, the CDC says direct exposure to droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes is the main way the virus spreads. And so the surface of certain foods like produce, and the packages that foods come in (particularly smooth surfaces) could be a place where virus particles could linger and then transfer to your hands.
Fresh produce and other food packaging
Say you grab an apple with the virus on it, and then touch your mouth, eyes, or nose. “In this case, food is like any other surface where the virus can survive for extended periods of time,” Miller says. While there is therefore a risk of becoming infected, it’s extremely low since it’s not being transmitted from one person to another.