In a brief joint statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration sought to alleviate anxiety regarding the role food and food packaging play in transmission of the novel coronavirus.
"There is no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from food or from food packaging. The U.S. food safety system, overseen by our agencies, is the global leader in ensuring the safety of our food products, including product for export," the statement, attributed to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, read.
The agencies took exception, however, to the issue being exploited to restrict global food exports.
"The United States understands the concerns of consumers here domestically and around the world who want to know that producers, processors and regulators are taking every necessary precaution to prioritize food safety especially during these challenging times. However, efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission," the statement read.
The Mayo Clinic acknowledged medical experts do not "have all the answers" regarding coronavirus spread, but did offer the following food-related findings to date:
Food containers and packaging: There's no evidence of anyone contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 after touching food containers and food packaging. Still, if you're concerned, it's reasonable to follow general food-safety guidelines:
• Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after handling takeout containers
• Transfer food to a clean dish using clean utensils
• Wash your hands again before eating
• After disposing of containers, clean and disinfect any surfaces that had takeout containers on them.
Grocery store produce: It's possible that the coronavirus might linger on fruits and vegetables that have been handled by a person with the virus. Whether this could make you sick with COVID-19 is not known. The best practice is to follow food-safety guidelines:
• Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them, by running them under water
• Soap is not needed
• You can scrub produce that has a rind or thick skin with a clean produce brush
• Wash your hands well with soap and water as soon as you get home from the grocery store.
• Clean and disinfect any reusable bags that you carried to and from the store. (Most cloth bags can go through the washer and dryer; other bags can be cleaned using a disinfectant wipe or spray.)
Click here to read the Mayo Clinic's complete guidance regarding coronavirus spread via food, water, surfaces and pets.