April 14, 2020 - 8:00am -- lehman.488@osu.edu

The traffic is slower on the road where I live, there aren’t many people in line without a mask, and making shopping lists so we can get quickly in and out of stores is the norm for now.  I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I had any indication of how this would play out when we left our offices to begin work from home four weeks ago.  Our lives and the lives of our families and loved ones have become priority, and the repercussions of “being in public” have changed in a way that few of us understood a few weeks ago .  Let me assure you that even though our doors are closed, we are working hard at home to come up with programs, materials and information to help you and your family through these challenging times. 

Food, clothing and shelter are some of our most basic needs.  Today I’d like to share some resources on our fresh food from the University of North Carolina. I hope you will find this researched based information helpful to you at this time.  The CDC, USDA and FDA 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 (wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the correct temperature, refrigerate food promptly) when handling or preparing foods. 

Is there going to be a produce shortage?

There is no shortage of food in the United States, although local stores may not have normal inventory while supply chains adjust.  We’ve seen examples of this locally, where our stores can’t keep up with the demand and our production lines can’t shift quickly enough to accommodate the supply.

Should I take any precautions while eating fresh produce?

COVID-19 is not known to be caused by eating contaminated food, so safety of fresh produce should not be a concern relative to this new virus.  Follow good food safety practices whenever you are 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.  However, 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 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 contain the 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 objects 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.  These regulations are designed to prevent foods from becoming contaminated.

For more information, please check out our “Knowledge Exchange” at kx.osu.edu/covid-19 where the statewide network of scientists, Extension Professionals and faculty are working together to share information and collect resources that you can use. 

 

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.

CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visit cfaesdiversity.osu.edu.