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Publication #FSHN20-20

COVID-19 and Food Safety FAQ: Is Coronavirus a Concern at Grocery Stores?1

Natalie Seymour, Mary Yavelak, Candice Christian, and Ben Chapman2

This flyer is best viewed as a PDF. It contains answers to a few frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 and grocery stores. Updated April 21, 2020

CDC, FDA and USDA are not aware of any reports at this time that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. Current evidence shows the biggest risk of transmission of COVID-19 is being around individuals who are symptomatic (and to a lesser extent, infected but not showing symptoms). Food businesses should be following employee health policies and local health department recommendations to keep these individuals home.

CAN I GET SICK WITH COVID-19 FROM TOUCHING FOOD OR PACKAGING IF THE CORONAVIRUS WAS PRESENT ON IT?

  • There is no indication that food packaging material has served in significant connection to virus transmission.

  • If concerned, handling of food packaging can be followed with handwashing and/or using hand sanitizer.

WHAT STEPS CAN I TAKE TO MINIMIZE RISK WHEN SHOPPING AT THE GROCERY STORE?

  • Use hand sanitizer when entering stores, and wash hands and/or use sanitizer as soon as possible after leaving.

  • Wear a cloth face covering while shopping.

  • Try to maintain social distancing as much as possible while shopping.

  • Avoid touching surfaces or items unnecessarily and avoid touching your mouth, nose or face.

  • Do not go shopping when showing symptoms or think you have been exposed to the virus.

HOW SHOULD PRODUCE BE HANDLED?

  • Consider using hand sanitizer before and after selecting produce items.

  • Avoid touching multiple produce items when making selections.

  • As per good food handling practices in general, wash hands before food preparation or eating, avoid touching the face and consider supplementing handwashing with the use of hand sanitizer.

WHAT IS MY GROCERY STORE DOING TO MINIMIZE MY RISK?

  • Many stores are following CDC guidelines on cleaning and disinfection. Some are limiting hours to allow for additional cleaning and disinfection.

  • Stores may also be providing hand sanitizer to customers and be asking sick employees or customers to leave.

  • Grocery employees are essential employees and encouraged to wear cloth face coverings.

  • Stores may also limit the number of people allowed to shop at one time, and enforce physical distancing while in line inside and outside the store.

For more info, visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov

(800) 232-4636

Footnotes

1.

This document is FSHN20-20, one of a series of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date March 2020. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

© NCSU. Used with permission.

2.

Natalie Seymour, MS, Extension associate; Mary Yavelak, MS, Extension associate; Candice Christian, MPH, Extension associate; and Ben Chapman, professor, food safety specialist; NC State University Extension. UF Contact: Michelle Danyluk, professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred, FL | mddanyluk@ufl.edu | (863) 956-8654.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.