Though rumors about how coronavirus spreads seem to grow faster than the spread of the virus itself, one thing everyone agrees on is that it is highly contagious. The primary concern at this time is a new member of the coronavirus family, COVID-19. The disease known as COVID-19 was coined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an abbreviation for coronavirus disease 2019.
Food safety and surveillance
The WHO reported in February that the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) was investigating food traded internationally in terms of the survival of COVID-19 and the potential for virus transmission. The WHO recommends avoiding the consumption of raw or under-cooked animal products and cautions that meat, milk and animal organs in a raw state should be handled with care to avoid cross-contamination with food that has not been cooked.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated exposure through food has not been identified as a source of transmission of coronavirus. Even so, the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) network is managing the outbreak response, providing reassurance to the public that they will “continue to operate to prepare for, coordinate and carry out response activities to incidents in foodborne illness” during the coronavirus outbreak.
Handling and availability of food
The FDA reports that no evidence has been presented of a connection between either food or food packaging and the transmission of COVID-19. Food facilities are advised to adhere to the protocols established by local and state health departments. The prevalence of COVID-19 in the local area or region will likely influence the guidelines in place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares best practices on their website, which should be followed by retail food stores, restaurants, food pickup services and delivery services.
In addition to concerns about how food is handled, there are many questions about food supply. The FDA has clarified that the U.S. is not facing a shortage of food but rather low inventory in individual grocery stores while they restock. The issue is the extraordinary shift in where food is purchased as a result of the pandemic. The demand from high-volume purchasers, such as hotels, restaurants, sports venues and schools has migrated to retail establishments. Manufacturers and retailers are struggling to meet this demand to make food available where it is now needed. To alleviate the disruption in the supply chain, the FDA is easing up on the usually stringent packaging and labeling requirements while monitoring the situation closely.
Consumption of fruits and vegetables
During the pandemic, it is especially important that people eat a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables. The CDC recommends washing produce as you would under normal circumstances. This means washing hands thoroughly with soap and water before washing fruits and vegetables completely with clean water, especially if eaten raw. Although people are generally encouraged to eat fresh produce, WebMD suggests that anyone with a weakened immune system may want to take the extra precaution of limiting consumption to frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.
Resources from trusted authorities
The government website, coronavirus.gov, combines the White House, CDC and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to bring the latest news to the public, including travel, emergency testing and plans for reopening America. To filter information for official accounts on social media, FEMA recommends looking for a blue verified badge next to the account names, which identifies them as official social media accounts.