Food and Coronavirus: What You Need to Know
Updated: May 11, 2021
We all have a lot of questions around food safety during the coronavirus outbreak. Here, we answer all your questions:
1. Can I catch coronavirus from food?
Currently, there is no evidence that coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can be transmitted through food.
COVID-19 spreads through small droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person when such person exhales, coughs or sneezes. You can catch COVID-19 if you breathe in these droplets while in close contact with the infected person, or if you touch objects or surfaces where the droplets fall and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
There is a risk of transmission while buying food and while touching food items/packages having droplets on them. You can also get infected by sharing cutlery or glasses with an infected person. Therefore, it is important to follow food safety measures.
2. What precautions should I take while buying food?
Limit the number of times you buy food.
If possible, order food instead of going out. Clean the doorbell and door handle with a disinfectant/sanitizer after the delivery person leaves.
If going out for buying food items:
Wear a mask.
Follow social distancing norms. Maintain at least 6 feet (1.8 metre) distance from others, even when in queues.
Avoid touching things unnecessarily. Do not touch your face after touching anything, such as food items, cash, trolley, etc. Carry a sanitizer and keep sanitizing your hands to avoid any risk in case you accidentally touch your face.
Avoid paying in cash because notes can be a medium of transmission.
It is better to carry your own cloth bag.
3. What precautions should I take after coming home from shopping?
As soon as you return, wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.
Clean with a disinfectant/sanitizer the door handle, doorbell, refrigerator door handle or any other place you may have touched.
After taking out all items, wash the shopping bag with a soap or disinfectant and water. If you used paper or plastic bags, throw them immediately. Or, since the virus can stay on surfaces for up to 2-3 days, just leave the cloth/paper/plastic bags in one place and avoid touching it for 2-3 days.
If you used your phone or debit/credit card to make payments, wipe them with a disinfectant or sanitizer.
4. How should I clean food packets, such as packets of milk, bread, cereals, biscuits, etc.?
Clean all food packets before storing them, using these guidelines:
Wash plastic food packets, such as for milk and pulses, in soap and water for at least 20 seconds. For this, you can keep a bucket with soap and water in your home. The virus will not say alive in the soap water, so you may reuse this water for washing other items.
For packets made of cardboard or other materials which cannot be washed in water, wipe the packet properly with a disinfectant/sanitizer.
Clean surfaces where you kept the food items before cleaning them, like tables and kitchen counters, with soap, disinfectant or sanitizer.
Wash your hands after cleaning food items with soap for at least 20 seconds.
5. How should I clean fruits and vegetables?
Once you cook the vegetables, the virus will get killed.
It is helpful to clean fruits and vegetables by dipping and rubbing them in warm water with a pinch of turmeric and salt due to their anti-microbial properties. However, there is no evidence that this can protect against COVID-19.
There is no evidence that COVID-19 spreads through fruits and vegetables. But if you are concerned, you may avoid eating raw vegetables or fruits that cannot be peeled. For salads, you can steam or boil the vegetables.
Wash your hands before and after handling fruits and vegetables with soap for at least 20 seconds.
Clean surfaces where you kept fruits and vegetables before cleaning them, like tables, kitchen counters and refrigerator shelves, with soap, disinfectant or sanitizer.
6. What precautions should I take while cooking?
Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before handling raw, cooked or ready-to-eat food. Also wash your hands after handling or preparing raw food.
Avoid handling the food in case you are ill, because you may transmit infected droplets in the food.
7. What should I eat to prevent or cure COVID-19? Should I eat garlic and Vitamin C-rich foods like lemon?
It is best to maintain a nutritious well-balanced diet. However, currently there is no evidence that any food item(s) can cure or prevent COVID-19.
Garlic may have some anti-microbial properties. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no evidence that eating garlic can protect from COVID-19.
Similarly, there is no clear evidence that Vitamin C-rich foods, such as lemon, amla and orange can protect from COVID-19. However, Vitamin C in general is known for strengthening the immune system and it is advisable to incorporate it your regular diet.
8. Is there anything which I must not eat?
There are no specific food restrictions. It is best to avoid processed food and foods high in fat, sugar and salt since they hurt the body’s immune system.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had advised avoiding the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. Raw meat, raw milk or raw animal organs should be handled with care to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods. Some healthy eating tips from UNICEF during COVID are available here, which includes eating more vegetables and fruits and limiting intake of processed foods.
9. Can I eat food from outside?
As explained in answer (1) above, while there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food, infected droplets present in the food may lead to transmission.
Take food from a source where you trust that the food has been hygienically prepared, such as by following proper cleaning guidelines, social distancing guidelines and ensuring people who are ill are not allowed to handle the food.
When you order food from outside, opt for contactless delivery if possible. Wear a mask when collecting your package from the delivery person. Discard the packaging material. In case the packaging is reusable, wash it with soap, disinfectant or sanitizer. Wash your hands with soap immediately after handling the packaging materials.