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Is grocery store food, take-out food safe to eat?

Expert says normal food safety precautions are necessary

SAN ANTONIO – Does the food we buy at the grocery store or pick up at a restaurant drive-thru present an increased risk of getting COVID-19?

Experts say it’s not the food that you should worry about so much as the people you encounter and your own safe practices.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted by food. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness spread primarily by person-to-person droplets.

“You could foresee, for example, at the grocery store, someone sneezes on an apple and you go behind and pick up the apple, but we believe you have much more of a chance of getting the coronavirus from a person, not maintaining social distance, than you can fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. James Rogers, director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.

When it comes to raw produce, Rogers said normal food safety practices apply.

“Rinse them under running water and use a scrub brush,” he said.

Rogers does not recommend soap on produce because if it’s not completely rinsed off, that can lead to a stomach illness.

Of course, you should wash your hands after handling the raw produce, too.

Cooking foods such as meats and poultry to their proper temperatures should also kill pathogens that make you sick. That’s not just coronavirus, it’s E. coli and salmonella.

People who are not accustomed to cooking may be doing more of it now that many people are staying home. All the more reason to brush up on safe cooking practices.

“You really don’t want to get sick now because it could be hard to get into a hospital,” Rogers said.

Many restaurants, forced to close their dining rooms, have begun offering take-out foods. Is that safe to eat?

“We believe getting food take-out is probably the least risky,” Rogers said.

That’s because social distancing is in play. He suggests avoiding direct hand-off if possible.

“If you do take-out, you bring the food into your home, take off the outer wrapping and throw is way immediately,” he said. “If you are concerned, wipe (with disinfectant) the outer packaging or transfer the food to another container in your own kitchen you know is clean.”

As an extra precaution, he suggests zapping hot take-out food in the microwave.

When it comes to food safety, the same rules to avoid COVID-19 in general apply: social distancing, clean surfaces, and wash your hands, especially before you eat.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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