How To Handle Food Safely During COVID-19 Outbreak

Answered by: Dr Sri Viknarajan
Updated on: April 24, 2020

Question:
Doctor, I saw people washing their groceries, vegetables, fruits, chicken, and even beef with soap to disinfect them from COVID-19. Is this necessary? Can we get infected from food? Is it safe to wash food with soap? I even heard they have special soap to wash food. How true is their claim? Please give me the right way to do it. Thank you, doctor.
Answer:
Hi, thank you for asking this question. This virus indeed has caused panic among our society that some people do take extreme measures to make sure they are safe. However, when talking about food handling, it is not necessary to wash food especially fresh food, meat, and poultry with soap as this can cause chemical contamination and when ingested can cause food poisoning. Washing them under running water and cooking them properly is already sufficient. Furthermore, there wasn’t any evidence showing that this virus is transmitted in food and water.

COVID-19 is known to be extremely difficult to predict. This virus seems to be evolving and changing, that the scientist is still unable to understand it’s nature. This virus infects thousands of humans in a blink of an eye. It doesn’t matter who, old or young, rich or poor, celebrities or priests, all can get infected. Therefore, people have been tiptoeing around, very careful in all aspects of life to ensure that they and their families are protected. Preventive measures include avoiding crowded areas, social distancing, movement control orders, frequent hand washing, and using the face mask has been in practice nowadays.

Recently, social media was on uproar with the story of a woman who washed all her food with soap for the purpose of disinfecting it before cooking. Many online users have criticized this woman's actions, but some others support her. So, what is the correct way of handling food during this COVID-19 outbreak? Up to now, there have been no cases of foodborne infections reported, therefore transmission from food is quite unlikely. However, let's take a look at what we can do to ensure your food hygiene and keep your mind in peace about the possibility of this virus ingested from your food.

To tell you the truth, this food-handling step is very easy and should be done even when no COVID-19 outbreaks are involved. First of all, you need to know that, gloves are not the answer and are a big no. This is because you will only increase the risk of getting and spreading the infection, not only the coronavirus but the other bacteria and viruses as well. Using gloves might give you food poisoning if not COVID-19. Therefore, it is not necessary to use gloves when shopping at the supermarket. Practice proper handwashing with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer instead.


It's best to stay at home and let your groceries or food come to you. Get a delivery service or a runner to get your stuff, and use cashless or contactless online payments to minimize your contact with others. If this service is not available in your area, wear a face mask when going to the market or store. Make sure to stay 6 feet or 1 meter away from others. Avoid stopping by at many shops. Instead, go to a one-stop store and you should come when there aren't many customers. You can also choose less popular stores to minimize your encounter with other humans. Go cashless when making payment.

Be sure to bring a hand sanitizer, or wash your hands if this facility is provided by the supermarket or store. Wipe the cart or basket handle you use with a disinfectant before using it. Plan your purchases so you can get the goods you need without having to stay in the store or supermarket for a long period of time. When returning home, make sure you take a shower and change clothes immediately before meeting other family members or your housemates.

So far, no studies have shown any cases of infections via transmission from goods or food products. However, if you are still concerned, you can clean items that are wrapped in waterproof packs, make sure the chemical didn’t reach and contaminate your food.

Buy enough food and groceries stock to keep you from having to go out again and again. However, avoid buying too much to avoid waste. Store the ingredients in a proper place so that they last longer.


For raw and fresh foods like chicken, fish, meat, vegetables, and fruits, there is no need to wash them with soap. This can cause chemical contamination in your food and can cause food poisoning. Although there are liquid washers that are claimed to be safe, I would not recommend that. It is sufficient for you to wash them with running water and cook it properly.

When preparing for the meals, make sure you do not mix raw ingredients with vegetables or fruits. Use different cooking tools such as knives and cutting boards to prevent cross-contamination. Cook your food especially ingredients like meat, chicken, and fish. Make sure the whole meat is hot to the inside.


As the main place of food preparation and storage, make sure you always clean this area. The ingredients and the tools should be stored in a neat, clean, and orderly manner.

Wash and dry tools before and after use. Do not use the same tools for raw materials with vegetables and fruits as mentioned before. Wash your sink and dishwasher regularly as stagnant water can be a breeding ground for germs as well as mosquitoes.

Clean the station you use to prepare fish, chicken, or meat every time you are done so that the bacteria from the food do not spread to other places or other food.

The above should not only be practiced during the COVID-19 outbreak but should always be your habit in handling food all your life.




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