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Extension is expanding its online education and resources to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.

Food safety advice for staying healthy while staying home

April 2, 2020
Small pile of vegetables on a stainless steel surface.

With many COVID-19 related messages on social media, you may have seen questionable food safety messages. Current research advises using the same good food handling practices that you’ve been using.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on their Food Safety and Covid-19 website, “Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that in general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely a very low risk of spread from food products or packaging shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures. It is more likely that a person will be exposed by person-to-person transmission involving close contact with someone who is ill or shedding the virus.”

Washing fruits and vegetables

  • Do NOT use dish soap, detergent or bleach to rinse, soak and wash fresh produce. These products are not intended to be eaten. 
  • Before use, rinse well under running water only the fruits and vegetables you plan to prepare or eat at that time.
  • Handling fresh fruits and vegetables safely
  • Coronavirus Resource Page - Partnership for Food Safety Education

 Groceries

  • When you go to the grocery store, use hand sanitizer or wipes to wipe surfaces, have a plan and a list. 
  • Keep social distance and only touch what you will buy.
  • Once home, do NOT store groceries outside, in cars or garages.
  • Bring groceries inside, unpack and store normally, followed by handwashing with soap and water.
  • Currently, there is no evidence that food or food packaging is a source of virus transmission.
  • Safe food handling basics
  • Shopping and Handling Groceries - North Carolina State University Extension

Delivery, takeout and storing foods and leftovers

Cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting; critical steps to keep surfaces safe

Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist, shares this important information about exercising caution with disinfecting in the time of COVID-19.

  • Cleaning is removing dirt, food and some illness-causing germs from surfaces.
    • Cleaning does not kill germs but helps remove them.
    • You need to clean surfaces before you can reduce the amount of germs, then you can sanitize or disinfect.
  • Sanitizing is the removal of germs from surfaces. 
  • A typical sanitizing solution for home kitchen surfaces is 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water.
    • More bleach isn’t better and can be dangerous.
    • Read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for the product you use since bleach concentration levels can vary.
    • Most bleach advises cool to warm (75 to 120 degrees) water, NOT hot water.
    • Do NOT mix with other chemicals. Wear disposable gloves, discard after use and wash your hands.
  • Disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets and sinks.
  • A clean kitchen is required for food safety

Hand sanitizers

  • Do NOT make hand sanitizer at home! This is a new recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • If made incorrectly, hand sanitizer can be ineffective, and there have been reports of skin burns from homemade hand sanitizer.
  • The FDA lacks verifiable information on the methods being used to prepare hand sanitizer at home and whether they are safe for use on human skin.
  • The previous recommendation to make hand sanitizer at home was due to a shortage however, more facilities are producing it and the shortage will catch up.
  • Hand Sanitizers and COVID-19 - U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Reusable shopping bags

  • If stores still allow reusable shopping bags and you use them, make sure to clean and disinfect them after each use.
  • Clean both inside and outside with soapy water and rinse.
  • Follow with wiping or spraying all surfaces with diluted, disinfecting bleach solution (4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water) or purchased ready-to-use disinfectant.
  • Allow bags to air dry.
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting Reusable Bags - North Carolina State University Extension

Kathy Brandt and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educators, food safety

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