Food Safety: COVID-19 considerations and beyond
9/24/2020 by Michaeleen Burroughs, RDN, LD
With September being National Food Safety Education Month, we are reminded that there are health and safety concerns beyond the looming pandemic to keep in mind in order to keep ourselves and family safe.
There are four crucial steps in helping to limit the spread of foodborne illness: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill. Here are some highlights of each step to keep in mind:
- Everyone preparing food should wash their hands. Use plain soap and water and scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails for at least 20 seconds.
- Use hot, soapy water to clean kitchen surfaces before and after food preparation.
- Keep non-food items, such as mail, newspapers, backpacks, and purses, off counters and away from food and utensils.
- Clean towels and dishcloths often.
- Remember to clean the microwave routinely because splatters can collect bacteria.
- Use one cutting board for fresh produce or other foods that won't be cooked before they're eaten, and another for raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Replace them when they are worn.
- Use separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw foods.
- Keep certain types of food separate:
- Place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags. Freeze them if you're not planning to use them within a few days.
- In the fridge, keep eggs in their original carton and store them in the main compartment — not in the door.
- Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature is hot enough to kill the germs that make you sick. A food thermometer is a necessary food safety tool.
- Refer to this Minimum Cooking Temperatures Chart to be sure your foods have reached a safe temperature.
- Microwave food thoroughly (165 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Keep food hot after cooking (140 degrees Fahrenheit) — consider meals set to be served buffet style and meals served in leisurely atmospheres (such as happy hours and similar get togethers).
- Refrigerate and chill food properly and promptly.
- Your refrigerator should be set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below and your freezer to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure.
- Never leave perishable foods out of refrigeration for more than two hours. If the food is exposed to temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (like a hot car or summer picnic), refrigerate it within one hour.
- Place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate promptly to allow quick cooling.
Food safety concerns during COVID-19 pandemic
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is currently no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging. The virus spreads from person-to-person through close contact or respiratory droplets, for instance when a person coughs or sneezes. Precautions and awareness are still warranted as it may be possible for viruses to survive on surfaces and objects, reinforcing the need to observe proper hygiene and food safety practices.
When ordering takeout or having food delivered:
- Practice social distancing, maintaining a distance of six feet whenever possible.
- Implement proper food safety practices while preparing and serving foods — whether at home, at school, or in the work place.
- Get more tips on accepting deliveries and takeout orders from the CDC.
Fore more information
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Food Safety
- Eatright.org – Home Food Safety
- Eatright.org – National Food Safety Education Month
Michaeleen Burroughs is a registered dietitian has worked at Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson in Family Medicine for over 20 years. She currently helps patients at Mayo Family Clinics Northwest, Southeast and Kasson, and Baldwin Family Medicine and Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM). Her areas of interest are diabetes and child and adult weight management.