You have seen photos and videos on social media. Like the bobbing edition for a pandemic apple, people share what they consider to be a wise food safety precaution. In an effort to dispel all traces of the corona virus, the sink is full of soapy water – from fresh fruits and vegetables to snacks and other packaged foods floating on the surface.
“This is absolutely unnecessary,” said Jeffrey Farber, professor of food science at Guelph University. To date, there is no evidence linking COVID-19 transmission with food or food packaging, he stressed. Just like you did in a non-pandemic period – as recommended by Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – use cold water to wash fruits and vegetables before eating “should be more than enough.”
Not only is it unwarranted, explained Farber – who was previously the director of the Bureau of Microbial Hazards in Health Canada, and has more than 35 years of experience in food safety – also potentially dangerous for reasons unrelated to coronavirus. By putting food in the sink, cross contamination with pathogenic bacteria can occur – especially if it has previously held something like raw chicken.
“You can have potentially dangerous bacterial pathogens in the sink,” Farber said. “And people don’t usually tend to wash their sink well, or clean it that often.” At the best of times, the kitchen sink is one of the dirtiest places in the house, even your toilet might be cleaner.
In addition, washing fruits and vegetables with dish soap can cause stomach pain. “This is clearly not permissible because we know that soap can actually cause things like vomiting and diarrhea,” Farber said. And as long as you wash your hands well – with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds – before and after you handle packaged food, and every time you eat, there is no need to take a shower of them either.
With the most widespread myth, this is another thing you should know about food safety and COVID-19.
COOKING FOR OTHERS
With Easter coming this weekend and Easter running until April 16, many people make holiday meals for friends and family members. Food preparation and delivery deserves consideration when it comes to reducing risk. First, “if you get any symptoms that you think might be related to COVID-19, please don’t prepare food for other people,” Farber said. If you feel fine, wash your hands thoroughly before starting food preparation.
The container that you use to pack food must be clean. If you use a dishwasher, the temperature of the hot water cycle is “more than enough to disable coronavirus,” he added. If you wash the dishes by hand with hot water and soap, using a brush is preferable to using a cloth. Unlike the bacterial problem, viruses cannot multiply on the surface of the dish cloth – “they basically just sit there” – but brush abrasion is more effective. “The physical action of the brush against the plate or whatever you wash must be (sufficient) to clean the existing virus particles,” Farber said.
When sending food to friends or family members, ensure physical distance by calling first, leaving the container at the door, and calling again from a distance to let them know that you have dropped it. After the person brings food to their home, they can place it directly in the refrigerator, wash their hands with soap and warm water, and then wash again before eating.
For people with higher risk who want to take extra precautions, Farber said they could choose to clean each container or package with a disinfectant eraser, “but in general it is not recommended to do this.”
Contact-free side pickup – where you order online, or by phone or email – is “one of the best strategies out there,” Farber said. “You go to the store, you open the trunk and they put food in. You always keep your distance. They close the trunk and you go.”
If that’s not an option, the goal is to spend as little time as possible at the grocery store. For that, Farber recommends going to a store that you know well, so you don’t roam the alleyways up and down, and write a shopping list beforehand so you know exactly what you’re looking for.
Choose a shop that takes pandemics seriously, he added. There should be disinfecting wipes at the ready, which you must use in your hands as you enter and exit. Employees must regularly disinfect baskets and baskets, and there must be real-time reminders that can be seen and heard – through the store’s sound system – to maintain a physical distance of at least two meters (six feet).
Don’t judge fruit and vegetables physically by juice, as you probably did before the pandemic. “I know people like to touch their tomatoes,” Farber laughed, “but at this moment, look at that tomato. If they look good, take what you want and continue. “
When you get home with groceries, place your bags on the table and wash your hands well. After you have stored all your daily necessities, you can sterilize the table area where the bag is located, and wash your hands again. Like people who receive food delivery, as well as during the non-pandemic period, before you eat, you should always wash your hands again.
Because of the shortage of retailers and the warning to stay at home as much as possible, grocery shopping has become stressful for many people. As elsewhere during the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining physical distance, keeping hands away from the face, and washing hands regularly – with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, and every time you eat or handle food – is the key. Knowing you take the necessary precautions, and not unnecessary ones, should help reduce food-related anxiety.
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