COVID 19 and Food

By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

Knowledge is power; in this viral season, knowledge is not only power, but a peace of mind. The question about how safe it is to get takeout food from restaurants has been on my mind. This Sunday April 26, 2020 I got my answer from the LA Times. The article on “Can I catch COVID from food?” is an excellent update on the topic. The reporter is Genevieve Ko. The scientific source is from Dr. Stephen Berger. Berger is board-certified in both infectious diseases and clinical microbiology and a cofounder of GIDE-On, the Global Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Network. If you have read it, you can skip this summary. But you haven’t, here are the highlights.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food? If so, how? 

There have been no cases associated with COVID 19 and food. Food contaminated with this virus could be ingested by mouth and into the stomach. Like many other viruses and bacteria, it is mostly likely destroyed by the stomach acids. There is no pathway which carries this virus to the lungs.

Can COVID 19 be transmitted in the process of consuming food?

The COVID 19 virus must enter the respiratory system to produce disease. Hence acquisition by mouth is a rare route.

If COVID 19 is on food, can it be killed by cooking?

Mostly it would be inactivated at temperatures of 56 to 65 degrees Celsius (132.8 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit). Most cooked food is in or above this temperature range.

Does it die more easily than the bacteria that can last on our food?

Bacteria can multiply in food and many species are highly resistant to heat and dryness.

Is there anything specific about COVID 19 that makes it harder to eliminate from our food?

No really. Routine practices of hygiene, storage, cleansing and cooking will do.

In summary, can you acquire COVID 19 from food? The bottom-line answer is NO.

Sheila’s note: while the COVID 19 may not do harm to your digestive system, but the unanticipated side effect of lockdown is excessive food intake. I noticed that my waist line is getting wider and my excuse is: “what the hack, this is a pandemic season.”  I caution you not to worry about the virus itself, but to be on guard on unwanted weight gain and its ill consequences such as diabetes, and high cholesterol.


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