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Can Coronavirus Spread Through Food?

Australia’s leading health and research institutes are clarifying misinformation around fresh produce including fruit and vegetables.

At the moment, there is a lot of different information circling about coronavirus and how it it transmitted, particularly if it is able to spread through food.

According to a collection of leading health and research institutes in Australia, it is important to know that food, including non-packaged fresh fruit and vegetables, is not shown to transmit COVID-19.

However, while it is advised we should  continue to consume fresh produce, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) state extra care should be taken with hygiene when handling food.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are not shown to transmit COVID-19. Image: Getty

The coalition of groups, which includes:  Hort Innovation, Nutrition Australia, CSIRO and AUSVEG, are urging Australians to follow government advice when making decisions around food and as such are directing consumers to FSANZ.

Matt Brand, CEO of Horticulture Innovation Australia, said it is more important than ever for Australians to follow a healthy diet in order to boost our immunity in the current climate.

"You can do this by purchasing and eating the range of fruit, nuts and vegetables that continue to be available on store shelves,” Brand said.

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Meanwhile, Dr David Cox, Principal Research Scientist from CSIRO supported this claim, stating we need to ensure we are following advice from trusted sources based on the most up to date scientific evidence.

"That’s why we are urging Australians to follow the latest advice from FSANZ that COVID-19 is not transmitted by food," Dr Cox said.

AUSVEG CEO, James Whiteside, added that Australian farmers are continuing to produce more than enough fruit and vegetables to supply Australia during this time.

"Keep buying fresh produce, wash it at home as you would normally do and use the natural nutrition to help you in your fight against COVID-19," Whiteside said.

Can coronavirus spread through food?

According to FSANZ, transmission of coronavirus through food in unlikely. So far there is no evidence that people have become infected by swallowing the virus in or on food or drink.

This means it is safe to eat and consume fresh fruit and vegetables from the supermarket or green grocer but you should ensure to wash these as per usual.

We should be more concerned about sharing food with someone who is sick, for example if you share a spoon or someone coughs on your food.

We should be more concerned about coming into contact with someone who is sick. Image: Getty

As coronavirus spreads though droplet transmission, if someone near you coughs or sneezes, their droplets of saliva or mucus can land within a metre or two of you, according to The Conversation.

It's for this reason that most transmission occurs when these droplets make their way into your mouth, nose or eyes which is why hand hygiene and trying to not touch your face are so important.

Therefore, if someone near you has coronavirus and they cough on your food or you share cutlery with them, they could potentially pass the infection onto you, as said on ABC 7.30.

Touching and eating fresh and canned food

There is no risk of canned foods transmitting coronavirus as it is inactivated at temperatures well below those required in the process of canning food, according to The Conversation.

The only risk of freshly packaged food depends on whether or not the person who packed it was sick. If you are worried, you should ensure the food you are eating is washed and thoroughly rinsed and/or can be peeled or cooked.

Takeaway food and deliveries

For takeaway food and deliveries, the biggest concern is coming into contact with someone who is sick when collecting your food.

For this reason, most restaurants offering takeaway allow the option for contactless delivery. You should opt for this where ever possible and also ensure you are maintaining standard social distancing measures when  buying or collecting takeaway food.

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General food safety advice

FSANZ also advise you should continue to practice good hygiene when preparing and handling food by doing the following:

  • Washing hands before handling food, and between handling raw and cooked foods.
  • Thorough cooking and proper handling of meat products.
  • Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
  • Avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing.

If you are concerned you are unwell, you should avoid cooking and handling food and seek medical assistance immediately.

Featured image: Getty

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