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JAMA Patient Page
April 9, 2020

Food Safety and COVID-19

Author Affiliations
  • 1Fishbein Fellow, JAMA
  • 2Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee
JAMA. 2020;323(19):1982. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.5877

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

How Is the Novel Coronavirus That Causes COVID-19 Transmitted?

SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets that enter the mouth, nose, or eyes by contaminated hands. There is no current evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted through food consumption.

How Can I Stay Safe While Grocery Shopping?

To prevent transmission, maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and other shoppers. Avoid shaking hands, hugs, or other physical contact. Try to wipe frequently touched surfaces like grocery carts or basket handles with disinfectant wipes, if available. Avoid touching your face. Wearing a cloth mask in the store may reduce your risk of getting infected and reminds others to participate in social distancing. Before leaving the store or while waiting in the checkout line, use hand sanitizer if available.

Avoid shopping in public if you have symptoms such as fever or cough. If you are symptomatic, wearing a mask may help prevent transmission to others. Washing your hands frequently and maintaining distance between yourself and others are the best ways to prevent illness.

What Precautions Should I Take When Unpacking Groceries?

Time is on your side. Recent studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 may remain infectious on surfaces or objects for up to 72 hours, but most virus on the surface of common materials becomes inactive (noninfectious) after the first 24 hours. There is limited evidence that virus particles on those products transmit disease. Virus on the surface of groceries will become inactivated over time after groceries are put away. The inner contents of sealed containers are unlikely to be contaminated. If using a disposable grocery bag, discard it once you are home. Reusable bags can be stored for later use. After unpacking your groceries, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Wipe surfaces with household disinfectants registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

What Precautions Should I Take When Preparing Food?

If you consume foods soon after unpacking your groceries, be sure to practice good hand hygiene before eating. Do not share plates or silverware with others. Rinse off fruits and vegetables thoroughly with water before consumption.

Are There Any Additional Precautions for Older Adults?

Adults older than 65 years and persons with chronic medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to severe disease from COVID-19. If possible, limit shopping in public. Ask a neighbor or friend to pick up groceries and leave them outside your house or bring them into the house while maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet. Some grocery stores offer special hours in the morning for older adults to shop. Try calling your local grocery store to see if this is available near you. Some online suppliers will deliver groceries to your home.

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The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, email reprints@jamanetwork.com.
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Article Information

Published Online: April 9, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.5877

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Aronoff reported receiving funding from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, Pfizer, Cayman Chemical Co, March of Dimes, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and serving as an advisory board consultant for Summit Therapeutics, NAEJA-RGM Pharmaceuticals, BLC, and Sanofi Pasteur. Dr Desai reported no disclosures.

Sources: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Food Safety and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Accessed March 29, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/newsletter/food-safety-and-Coronavirus.html.

Ong SWX, Tan YK, Chia PY, et al. Air, surface environmental, and personal protective equipment contamination by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) from a symptomatic patient. JAMA. Published online March 4, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.3227

van Doremalean N, Bushmaker T, Morris DH, Holbrook MG, Gamble A, Williamson BN. Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1. N Engl J Med. Published online March 17, 2020. doi:10.1056/NEJMc2004973

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    1 Comment for this article
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    Please get this entire article into general press
    Ruth Phinney | Lions VisionGift
    This is an excellent (and reassuring) précis. The need to widely disseminate this in the general press is urgent.

    There is a great deal of poor, inaccurate, and even misleading or just plain wrong information floating out in the general public, particularly on the internet. Publishing this in JAMA, where even open access required registration, and where the name of the publication alone will intimidate and discourage some, reaches a far more limited audience than this article needs. To be effective it must reach, without any barriers at all, people who just stick "coronavirus and food" or "groceries and
    coronavirus" into a search engine.

    Yes, professionals also need this information, but speaking to such a small segment of the population, a segment which is far more likely than average to have investigated such issues in professional studies and which is far more able to independently extract information therefrom, is a disservice to the majority of the country. We cannot continue to simply talk among ourselves.

    Please disseminate this widely, to outlets including public broadcasting/national public radio, major newspapers across the country, state health departments, and tweet, instagram, and facebook at least the visual in the article (sorry for the verbs from nouns).
    CONFLICT OF INTEREST: None Reported
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