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Publication #FSHN20-22

COVID-19 and Food Safety FAQ: Is Coronavirus a Concern on Fresh Produce?1

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

CDC, FDA and USDA are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest coronavirus can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.

IS THERE GOING TO BE A PRODUCE SHORTAGE IN THE UNITED STATES?

  • There is no shortage of food in the United States, although local stores may not have normal inventory while supply chains adjust.

SHOULD I TAKE ANY PRECAUTIONS WHILE EATING FRESH PRODUCE?

  • COVID-19 is not known to be caused from eating contaminated food, so safety of fresh produce should not be a concern relative to this new virus.

  • Follow good food safety practices whenever preparing, storing, or consuming foods.

SHOULD PRODUCE BE WASHED BEFORE EATING? SHOULD SOAP OR A DISINFECTANT BE USED?

  • Washing produce before consumption is always a good practice.

  • Produce should be washed or soaked in cool running water.

  • It is not recommended to wash produce with dish soap or any detergent.

  • It is not recommended to treat produce with chemical disinfectants at home.

COULD EATING FRESH PRODUCE THAT HAS BEEN CONTAMINATED CAUSE COVID-19?

  • There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 is spread by eating food that might inadvertently contain small amounts of virus.

  • Produce has not been identified as a risk factor in the transmission of other respiratory virus outbreaks.

WHAT HAPPENS IN YOUR BODY IF YOU DO INGEST CORONAVIRUS THROUGH FOOD?

  • Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of the virus directly by eating food that might inadvertently contain virus.

  • Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. It may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their mouth, eyes, or nose, but this is not thought to be the major way the virus is transmitted.

  • In commercial food production, processing, and preparation, there are many best practices that are routinely followed as per federal, state, and local regulations. Regulations are designed to prevent foods from becoming contaminated with microbes from the environment, including viruses.

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

(800) 232-4636

Updated April 21, 2020

Footnotes

1.

This document is FSHN20-22, 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.