COVID-19 & Food

Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission. 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. Stores are encouraging consumers to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill – to prevent foodborne illness.

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Video

Dr.  Ben Chapman, professor, food safety specialist, Department of  Agricultural and Human Sciences, North Carolina State University, NC  State Extension, states there is no indication that food packaging   material has a significant connection to virus transmission. If  concerned, handling of food packaging can be followed with hand washing   and/or using hand sanitizer. Dr. Chapman shares more insights on coronavirus and food packaging, and ways to prevent the spread of  COVID-19.  

Basics for Handling Foods

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The information provided below is from the USDA website. For more information visit https://www.fsis.usda.gov. 


Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage are essential to prevent foodborne illness. You can't see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. In every step of food preparation, follow the four steps of the Food Safe Families campaign to keep food safe:

  • Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate — Don't cross-contaminate.
  • Cook — Cook to the right temperature.
  • Chill — Refrigerate promptly.

Shopping

  • Purchase refrigerated or frozen items after selecting your non-perishables.
  • Never choose meat or poultry in packaging that is torn or leaking.
  • Do not buy food past "Sell-By," "Use-By," or other expiration dates.

Storage

  • Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours—1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F (32.2 ºC).
  • Check  the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer with an appliance  thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F (4.4 ºC) or below and the freezer at 0 °F (-17.7 ºC) or below.
  • Cook  or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb, or pork, within 3 to 5 days.
  • Perishable food such as meat and poultry should be wrapped securely  to maintain quality and to prevent meat juices from getting onto other food.
  • To maintain quality when freezing meat and poultry in its original package, wrap the package again with foil or plastic wrap that is recommended for the freezer.
  • Canned  foods are safe indefinitely as long as they are not exposed to freezing temperatures, or temperatures above 90 °F. If the cans look ok, they are safe to use. Discard cans that are dented, rusted, or swollen. High-acid canned food (tomatoes, fruits) will keep their best quality for 12 to 18 months; low-acid canned food (meats, vegetables) for 2 to 5 years.

Preparation

  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Don't  cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their  juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash cutting  board,  utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
  • Cutting  boards, utensils, and countertops can be sanitized by using a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of  water.
  • Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.

Thawing

  • Refrigerator: The refrigerator allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing meat and poultry juices do not drip onto other food.
  • Cold Water:  For faster thawing, place food in a  leak-proof plastic bag. Submerge  in cold tap water. Change the water  every 30 minutes. Cook immediately  after thawing.
  • Microwave: Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave thawing..

Cooking

Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F (62.8 ºC) as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures. 

Ground meats: Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F (71.1 ºC) as measured with a food thermometer.
 

Poultry: Cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165 °F (73.9 °C) as measured with a food thermometer.

Serving

  • Hot food should be held at 140 °F (60 °C) or warmer.
  • Cold food should be held at 40 °F (4.4 ºC) or colder.
  • When serving food at a buffet, keep food hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Keep food cold by nesting dishes in  bowls  of ice or use small serving trays and replace them often.
  • Perishable food should not be left out more than 2 hours at room  temperature—1  hour when the temperature is above 90 °F (32.2 ºC).

Leftovers

  • Discard any food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours—1 hour if the temperature was above 90 °F (32.2 ºC).
  • Place food into shallow containers and immediately put in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling.
  • Use cooked leftovers within 4 days.
  • Reheat leftovers to 165 °F (73.9 °C).

Refreezing

Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator may be refrozen before or after cooking. If thawed by other methods, cook before refreezing.  

Cold Storage Chart

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