Most news sources – and let’s face it, people – are actually worried about one thing: the coronavirus outbreak.
Handwashing is perhaps the most critical of them all, among many of the precautions that should be taken during this period. Nevertheless, as you continue to live your life, some questions might arise, such as, “Is it safe to dine in a restaurant right now?” (Psst, we have the answer here.) “Or buy fresh fruits and veggies in big grocery stores?”
Considering that China accounts for almost one-fifth of the global gross domestic product, this is not really a far-off issue.
According to a study from the “Minnesota Agriculture Department,” while the amount of U.S. agricultural exports to China is far above that of Chinese exports to the U.S., we still receive a substantial stream of agricultural products from the region. For example, the US imported Chinese crops, livestock, and even animal by-products worth $4.6 billion.
In addition, the coronavirus is no longer confined to China — it has since spread to and ramped up in numerous countries around it, as well as in Europe, in which the U.S. is also trading. And here in the United States, there are now 104 people with the infection, six of which have died.
So, do you think about the virus being infected with imported produce? Or catch it from consuming fresh or Veggy fruits?
The United Fresh Produce Association says that while the CDC and FDA still have to make a definitive comment as to whether the virus can be transmitted in items such as fruits and veggies, there is currently no evidence indicating that it can be transmitted.
Interestingly, a 2013 research report on coronavirus in strawberries and lettuce found that the virus only persists on between four and 10 days of growth, which is much lower than other respiratory viruses. On the other hand, Ireland’s Food Safety Authority says the coronavirus requires a host — either an animal or a human — to grow so it can’t grow in the food.
Until we get more uniformly definite data, buying and eating fruits and veggies is not of great concern right now.
That said, one way to put your mind at ease if you’re nervous is to thoroughly cook whatever fresh produce you buy. (Try boiling beets instead of consuming them raw in a salad, or sautéing mushrooms and broccoli for a homemade stir-fry.) Most importantly, concentrate on the steps you need to take to stay clear of the virus as much as possible.
7 Ways to stop coronavirus when eating out
A sharp spike in U.S. coronavirus cases is making rhetoric about a possible pandemic appear less alarmist and cautious. As a result, buying a hand sanitizer or masks at your nearest drug store is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, you need to keep living your life, like going out to eat if you like.
There are some time-tested tips to remain safe (that, to be honest, you can adopt all the time) to help you avoid picking up COVID-19 or any other germs when dining at a restaurant or hanging out in a public location. (An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as Benjamin Franklin once said)
Here are a few quick and easy-to-follow tips to keep you safe when you dine:
1. Wash Your Hands!
This is the first and perhaps most obvious thing to do, according to the CDC: Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, particularly after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Dining facilities are public places and not everyone can be as safe or as safe as you are, so take responsibility.
Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not readily available. Where hands are clearly dirty, wash hands with soap and water always.
2. Avoid Open Buffets
Those protective shields of the plexiglass cover the dishes filled with whatever food you like? For some reason, they’re called “sneeze guards.” They can exist with the best intentions, but in preventing airborne contagions and bacteria from ultimately landing on your plate they are not even close to being 100 percent healthy.
Although COVID-19 can not be transmitted by food, body fluids from an infected person can end up in a location no one wants. When in doubt, then? Take off buffets.
3. Less Crowded is Ideal
Limiting interaction with lots of individuals limits the risk of contracting coronavirus. So, smaller restaurants (with fewer staff and patrons) will decrease the chances of getting sick when choosing your dining establishment of choice. Keeping that in mind, maybe avoid the chain restaurants serving hundreds of diners, and instead pick your nearby mom and pop eatery.
4. Check Food Safety Ratings
Many local municipalities have a surprisingly efficient food safety rating system, a public service that could not have been more important than it is now. Approximately 60% of foodborne diseases come from restaurants that are directly linked to the cleanliness of the kitchen and restaurant. Checking out how safe your favorite places are, which can easily be Googled, is never a bad idea. (Or check out the nifty database of the Food Saftey Network that lets you find unique regional ratings.)
5. Feeling Ill? Stay Home
If you feel a little under the weather, then do the right thing and don’t go out to eat. If you need to, then cover your mouth and nose by coughing or sneezing with your arm instead of your hand (which can easily leave pathogens on door handles, sinking faucets and really any public object you touch). The best way to keep the coronavirus in control is not to pass it along on your own.
6. Eat-In Smaller Groups
Eating with a large group of diners at a big table raises the chances that anyone may get sick. Perhaps it might be a smart idea to forego the big outing and go for a smaller date with only two or four people instead. Not only are you likely to get better service and enjoy a more personal chat, but your chances of remaining safe are also increased!
7. Don’t Believe the Hype
Common sense is crucial to stopping coronavirus spread, and yet the impending pandemic has many enduring misconceptions surrounding it. There is no increased risk of eating Chinese food, nor does drinking Corona beer have any impact given the fact that 38 percent of recently polled Americans tend to avoid Mexican beer only because of the name. It sounds dumb, but there’s no need to avoid any food or brand unique to keep you safe.
How to wash the vegetables and fruits?
Stock, wash and cook fruit and vegetable advice to avoid food poisoning like E. Coli. Coli.
Until you eat them, it is necessary to wash all the fruits and vegetables to ensure they’re clean and healthy to eat.
Most people are aware of the importance of healthy meat handling but many find the risk of vegetable food poisoning to be small.
But the risk was illustrated in the UK’s 2011 outbreak of Escherichia coli (E. coli). It is assumed that soil stuck on leeks and potatoes was the cause of the outbreak which involved 250 cases of E. Infection by bacteria.
How should fruit and vegetables be washed?
Washing can help to eliminate bacteria from the fruit and vegetable surface like E.coli.
Most of the bacteria would be affixed to the substance in the soil. Therefore washing for removing any soil is particularly necessary.
Wash the vegetables under a running tap and rub them under pressure, e.g. in a bowl of freshwater. First, start with the slightest soiled things and give each one a final rinse.
Washing loose produce is especially important, as it appears to have more soil attached to it than fruit and vegetables pre-packaged.
Once you consume them, it is also best to wash all fruits and vegetables to ensure they are safe and to help eliminate bacteria from outside.
Fruit and vegetables also can be sliced or cooked to remove bacteria.
What are the key tips for healthy storage, handling, and cooking of raw vegetables?
- Always thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling the raw food, including vegetables.
- Hold raw foods apart from ready-to-eat foods like vegetables.
- Using different chopping boards, knives, and utensils for raw and ready-to-eat foods, or thoroughly wash these things in between uses.
- Check the label – when packaging around vegetables says you’re ready to eat, you’ll need to wash, cut or cook them before you eat.
How can I avoid cross-contamination?
To prevent cross-contamination:
- Clean your hands also after handling the raw food
- Stock foodstuffs raw and ready to eat separately
- Place raw meat in sealable containers at the bottom of your refrigerator to keep it from spilling on to other foods
- Using a different raw food and ready-to-eat food chopping board or wash it thoroughly for different food types
- Thoroughly clean the knives and other utensils the following use with raw food
- Do not wash raw meat or poultry – thorough cooking can kill any harmful bacteria, and washing will spill harmful bacteria around the kitchen
Why do bacteria end up in vegetables?
In some ways, bacteria can get on the fruit and vegetables. We may be found in irrigation water, organic fertilizers, or droppings from birds and other animals going into the fields.
Will people vulnerable to infection be treated with raw vegetables?
There is no indication that loose vegetables frequently are infected with E.coli or other dangerous bacteria.
People who are vulnerable to infection such as pregnant women, the elderly or someone with a compromised immune system should closely observe the preparation instructions and good hygiene. We don’t need to stop cooking those foods.
Since handling loose vegetables as part of food planning, shopping or during craft events, children should be encouraged to wash their hands.
Why will I treat loose vegetables while going out?
As long as good hygiene practice is practiced, the risk of infection from handling loose vegetables remains low.
It is not necessary or practical to wash your hands every time you go shopping, after handling loose vegetables or fruit.
If you plan to eat food directly after shopping, then washing your hands and those of any children who might have treated loose vegetables would be advisable.
Bear in mind when picking loose vegetables, that it can take longer to prepare more heavily soiled vegetables at home.
Will I stop buying soiled vegetables on them?
No. No. Some vegetables are always sold on them, with some soil. When making vegetables it is good practice to remove as much soil as possible.
Loose vegetables can require a little more planning than if they are pre-packed but there is no need to avoid them as long as this is done carefully.
Keep in mind that it can take longer to prepare heavier soiled vegetables for cooking.
It is also important to note that while the soil was regarded as the most likely source of the 2011 E. Contamination of bacteria, this is for sure not understood.
Why can there be problems with vegetables?
Many recent outbreaks associated with salad vegetables have occurred which are eaten raw.
Nevertheless, a disease associated with root vegetables is much less likely, as most root vegetables are cooked before eating.
There is always a chance of harmful bacteria spreading into other foods on loose vegetables if the items are not properly stored, washed and cooked.
At COVID-19, food health, nutrition and wellness
As we navigate these unprecedented times, many wonder how to shop, order, and prepare food safely to reduce novel coronavirus transmission. Although there is no reported evidence of an infected person contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from touching food or food packaging that came into contact with the virus due to coughing or sneezing, the COVID-19 virus can live on surfaces and objects for some time. This is the reason we are strongly encouraged to regularly wash our hands, particularly after touching frequently handled items like doorknobs or handles. The page provides some tips about when you need to go shopping and how to treat your food when you bring it home, along with preserving essential social distance activities. Most notably, the primary mechanism of COVID-19 transmission is droplet spread from being close to an infected person (who does not have any symptoms), so social distancing is the most effective way to minimize risk to you and others.
Although we have no clear evidence of particular dietary factors that can minimize the risk of acute infections such as COVID-19, we do know that maintaining a healthy diet, being physically active, managing stress and getting enough sleep is crucial to keeping our immune system solid. We are also providing some approaches and tools to help sustain some of these activities in the face of current uncertainties. Do what you can, and in some situations seek to have some fun along the way (if you can spend some time in the kitchen or get some exercise! This being said, the health crisis at COVID-19 produces a number of complex and individual impacts — from issues of food availability, income fluctuations, mental distress, and beyond. Check out Harvard Chan’s series of weekly open online forums for more advice and debate on coping during this tough period.
- There is no documented data, and undisclosed proof that people have acquired COVID-19 disease by handling food or food packaging is unknown to us. Nevertheless, the virus that triggers COVID-19 can survive a limited period of time on surfaces and objects. The evidence available indicates this on hard surfaces like metal or concrete for up to 3 days, and on soft surfaces like cardboard for around 1 day. This is unlike certain other viruses, which can live for long periods on food or other surfaces. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends four measures to ensure safe food handling: Wipe, Detach, Prepare, and Chill. For more commonly asked questions on COVID-19 like food health, please visit the FDA.
- When shopping, the greatest chance of contracting viruses is touching a shopping cart or basket. As noted, coronaviruses can live up to 3 days on hard surfaces such as steel and plastic (e.g., car door handles, building door handles, shopping cart/basket handles, elevator buttons) and these are the highest-risk surfaces to reach.
- Another high-risk scenario is close interaction with other shoppers or with the workers at the store. Maintain as far as possible a gap of 6 feet, as you will while standing in the checkout line. To stop traffic, consider minimizing your trips to the store and shop at off-peak hours.
- Offer to pack your own food, to eliminate other people’s touches. Remember that while self-checkout lanes can decrease your contact with people, be mindful that you will communicate with possible secondary infection points, such as the barcode scanner, touch screen, and conveyor belt.
- Handwashing remains a crucial step towards reducing COVID-19 distribution and should be performed regularly. Upon returning home, and before cooking or eating food, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with clean water and soap.
- Due to the restricted ability of coronavirus to thrive on surfaces, the best way to reduce the risk of infection from foods bought at a pharmacy or shipped to your home is simply to allow it to stay in an out-of-the-way position for three days. It will of course not work for products needing immediate refrigeration or freezing. Note that COVID-19 is an “enveloped virus” which means the virus is wrapped in an oily membrane. Fortunately, basic soap is very effective in destroying the oil on surfaces, and water is effective in cleaning and rinsing the virus-free.
Takeout meals and food delivery
- Ordering meals for take-out or delivery benefits small businesses, which are now their primary source of income. To pick healthy meals while ordering from restaurants, use the Safe Eating Plate as a guide.
- COVID-19 is not likely to be transmitted through the food itself according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Any danger will come more likely from close contact with the food-providing worker. Foodservice establishments and distribution systems will, however, meet the recommendations of local health departments on food safety and routine COVID-19 symptoms screening of employees. Some restaurants are also providing food delivery with little to no touch, such as prepaid over the phone with a credit card, food being delivered to a pick-up vehicle, to food left at the door. Since COVID-19 will remain up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces, it is suggested to discard food packaging in cardboard. If the meal is obtained, move the meal from its packaging onto a plate, remove the packaging and thoroughly wash the hands with soap and water.
- Register for store grocery deliveries to be left at your doorstep and meet general food safety guidelines for food handling.
Breathe, rest, and sleep
- Make sure to take time for rest and normal, mindful breathing, in the midst of the many stressors in a day (whether new or amplified). It needn’t be long — even a few breaths will help. Try this fast, mindful breathing exercise with Dr. Lilian Cheung, if you would like some guidance.
- Hold routine for the night. Try to wake up at about the same time and go to bed. The body clock, or circadian rhythm, controls daily perceptions of sleepiness and wakefulness. This ensures a normal circadian rhythm to provide a regular sleep schedule so that we can achieve deeper, more restful sleep. It in effect helps control mood and appetite.
Tips for groceries and takeout
Although the risk of catching COVID-19 from food is possibly small, some measures can be taken to further reduce the risk. Here are a few hints. (Chapman and his colleagues have put together several COVID-19 tools for consumer food protection and for the foodservice industry.)
- It is always a good idea — even when there is no pandemic — to rinse fresh fruit and vegetables with water to remove soil, waste, and pesticides and to and the rates of foodborne germs.
- No need to wash soaped milk. “Soap is for hands, not food,” said Chapman.
- When you’re worried about food packaging, after handling the package, you should wash your hands.
- If you’re concerned about your food, you can cook it for 3 minutes at 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius) which will dramatically reduce any virus particle rates, Chapman said.
Food that comes from restaurants is “really, really low risk” because staff in the food industry are now becoming more aware of food safety. Chapman urges people to wash their hands after handling food packaging or take-out bags, to further reduce the risk.
It’s also critical for food industry employers to have good policies for employee safety. Food workers should stay at home if symptoms begin, even if they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19