"It is crucial, even within families, to make sure not to share food that someone else directly bit into or drank," says Dr. Felicia Wu, the John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University.
Dr. Wu also currently serves as an expert adviser to the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives of the United Nations.
“Even though COVID-19 (specifically SARS-CoV-2) is not typically airborne (therefore, you don’t have to worry about contracting it from breathing air unless an infected person coughed near you), it is droplet-borne. That is why someone infected with this virus and coughing, sneezing, or spitting close to you would increase your risk of becoming infected. For that same reason, although it sounds a bit disgusting to discuss, people transmit their saliva onto the food they eat and the beverages they drink, which may subsequently contain SARS-CoV-2 if they are infected. Therefore, no sharing even with your own family.”
Dr. Wu was also able to provide some very important expert insight on what may be common questions that are being asked in the community.
TAKEOUT: Is takeout safe during the coronavirus outbreak? What about raw foods and salads? And, what are some steps you can take to make takeout safer?
Dr. Wu: Yes, it is generally safe to order and eat takeout food, if you can trust the overall safety practices of the restaurant. Cooked food is usually free of pathogenic microbes; the only danger is if food workers somehow coughed or otherwise transmitted infected droplets to the food after it was cooked and before it was packaged for takeout. There is some risk to raw, uncooked foods if anywhere along the handling chain, an individual who was infected with SARS-CoV-2 coughed or otherwise transmitted droplets onto the food. If there are concerns regarding food delivery, customers can inform the restaurant that they would prefer to have the delivery person put the food on their porch and ring the doorbell.
GROCERY STORES: There are lots of people in stores and hands touching food. How can you keep produce safe? Does washing help? And how long can the virus last on a package or on a piece of produce?
Dr. Wu: This is definitely a problem and has always been a problem (we’re only becoming more concerned about it now). It is entirely plausible for a sick person to rub their nose or their mouth, or cough or sneeze into their hands, and then use those same hands to touch fruit, vegetables, etc. in the grocery stores. I would recommend washing all produce intended for raw (uncooked) consumption at home (and wash your hands, too!) with soap and water. There is a considerable amount of uncertainty with how long coronavirus can survive on different surfaces, so absolutely, it is a good idea to disinfect jars or cans of food before putting them away at home. Again, wash your hands afterwards.
Dr. Felicia Wu is an Expert in food safety, social network analysis, global health, risk assessment, economic models, environmental health risks, public health and has been sought out by national media for her expertise on the topic. She is available to speak with media regarding food safety – simply click on her icon to arrange an interview today.
Felicia Wu John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor
Expert in food safety, social network analysis, global health, risk assessment, economic models, environmental health risks, public health