With to-go service from restaurants the only way to eat out across the county and grocery stores experiencing some empty shelves due to the COVID-19 pandemic, questions about how to keep food that you bring into your home safe are front and center.

In an email, TDOH Associate Director Office of Communication and Media Relations Bill Christian would only say that the US Food and Drug Administration is “not aware of any reports suggesting COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging,” and recommended frequent hand washing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as saying that those at high risk of infection could use gloves when handling goods.  

Christian added that the FDA has issued reminders to food producers, distributors and restaurants to follow proper hygiene practices such as hand washing and cleaning surfaces regularly. 

Christian did not return a request for comment on if the state would be increasing checks by health inspectors on restaurants or grocery stores. 

While the USDA does say that there is no evidence that food packaging can transmit the virus, The National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists published a study in The New England Journal of Medicine showing that COVID-19 "was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel."

A report by the Associated Press on the study quotes study leader Neeltje van Doremalen at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who said that they are not saying that the virus has been confirmed to have been transmitted either by aerosols, but said that all of the contact methods are theoretically possible according to their study.

In response to the crisis, grocery stores have begun to reduce operating hours to both restock shelves and to do more extensive cleaning, but consumers may need to take additional steps, according to Grand Rapids, Michigan, doctor Jeffrey VanWingen, who published a 13-minute video detailing how to keep consumers safe by sanitizing and storing groceries and take-out food. 

Some of VanWingen's advice includes throwing away cereal boxes and keeping the sealed plastic bags inside box or even storing some items outside until needed. 

"Coronavirus does not do well in food," VanWingen said in the video. "It's the wrappers I'm more concerned about."

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