Currently, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging but Safefoood has released information on food safety and packaging as Covid-19 restrictions continue
"There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices when handling or preparing foods," said Dr Linda Gordon, Chief Specialist in Microbiology at Safefood.
“A question we’re being asked a lot is whether people should wash or disinfect food packaging when they bring it home from shopping”, continued Dr Gordon. “The simple answer is no – it’s not necessary to sanitize the outside of food packaging as there is no current evidence that the virus can be transmitted in this way. The main risk of transmission is from close contact with infected people."
"With many people cooking a lot more than they usually do, Dr Gordon also had advice on how to deal with leftovers. “Typically, if there is food leftover after a meal, get it into the fridge within two hours – you can help cool it more quickly by dividing it into smaller portions. However, remember that cooked rice is high-risk and must be cooled and put in the fridge within one hour. Any leftovers properly stored should be eaten with three days but if you’re in any doubt, throw it out into your brown bin.”
Food shopping advice
She has offered the following pointers when it comes to shopping amid the restrictions:
· When you go food shopping, you should wash your hands before you leave the house, avoid touching your face when you’re out and follow social distancing.
· When you come home, you should wash your hands straight away. Wash them again once you have unpacked and put away your shopping.
· It is not necessary to sanitise the outside of food packaging. While there is some evidence that the virus can survive on hard surfaces, the risk from handling food packing is very low and there is no evidence that the illness can be transmitted in this way.
· If you are sanitising surfaces or shopping bags, follow the manufacturer’s instructions about how much time is needed before wiping the sanitiser off.
· Gloves can give a false sense of security. They would need to be changed very frequently to be effective. It’s better to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.
Frequently asked questions
They have also issued some frequently asked questions when it comes to food storage and the delivery of food to those cocooning.
I’ve seen advice that it’s safer to leave your grocery shopping outside your home, like in your boot or garage, for a few hours before you bring it into your home. Is that true?
You should always put away your shopping as soon as you get home, especially perishable foods which must be stored in the fridge or freezer.
When I bring my grocery shopping into my home, could it be contaminated with the Coronavirus? What do I have to do to make sure it is safe?
While there is some evidence that the virus can survive on hard surfaces, the risk from handling food packing is very low and there is no evidence that the illness can be transmitted in this way. However, you should always put away your shopping as soon as you get home, especially perishable foods which must be stored in the fridge or freezer.
If I deliver food to a relative in isolation, what do I have to do it make sure it’s safe?
Firstly, if you show any symptoms, you should not offer to deliver food. If you can, please follow food shopping advice above, and it might be best to leave the shopping at the door.
If I have a takeaway delivered, what should I do to make sure it’s safe?
You should wash your hands before and after handling the packaging.
I have heard that sanitizers can only be used three or four times and then hands must be washed properly in hot soapy water. Is that true?
Thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water is best, but hand sanitizers are a good option when you don’t have access to soap and water, such as when you're out and about.
Can I wash my hands with cold water and soap? The kids don’t like hot water. Is that adequate?
The temperature of the water is not that significant. The most important thing is that you wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and dry your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Should I wash my reusable material shopping bag after each use?
It is not essential to do this, but if you prefer then you could wash a fabric bag at 60 degrees C or use a sanitizer on other shopping bags. Follow the sanitizer manufacturer’s instructions.
Should I wipe down my re-usable water bottle before every use?
Re-usable water bottles should always be washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water between uses. You should not share your water bottle with anyone. As long as you follow normal food hygiene advice there is no need to take any extra steps.
I’m cocooning and I’m worried about the safety of the food being left at my doorstep.
You should always put away food as soon as you can, especially perishable foods which must be stored in the fridge or freezer. While there is some evidence that the virus can survive on hard surfaces, the risk from handling food packing is very low and there is no evidence that the illness can be transmitted in this way. However you should wash your hands once you have unpacked and put away your shopping.
I’ve just done some baking and want to leave items for my neighbours. What can I do to reassure them the food I made for them is safe?
Firstly, if you show any symptoms, you should not offer to deliver food. If you are baking you should always follow good hygiene practices. You should wash your hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature and put food in the fridge as soon as you can.
Should I wipe down/clean all food packaging coming into my house?
It is not necessary to sanitize the outside of food packaging. You should follow the food shopping advice above and wash your hands before and after you go food shopping, and after you unpack your shopping.
If someone is sick in the house, what is the suggested hygiene with utensils and cutlery?
Utensils and cutlery should be washed in a dishwasher if possible, or washed thoroughly with hot, soapy water.