Viewer Rosemary S. asked us: “How long can coronavirus live on refrigerated and frozen foods? Should we be wearing gloves and/or washing stuff before putting in the fridge or freezer?”
There is little research available on the ability of the virus to spread on food in refrigerated or frozen environments. However, there is some guidance on how to handle your food to best protect yourself from infection.
Can the new coronavirus spread on food? Should we handle food or utensils any differently?
The Center for Disease Control says that if there’s a sick person in your home, you should wash dishes and utensils with gloves and hot water. Health organizations aren’t recommending you do anything differently.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Food and Drug Administration said as recently as February 27, “we are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.” No American food or health department has said anything differently on the matter since.
Other international food and health departments echo this sentiment. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland says, “There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is passed on through food.”
The Harvard Medical School says that it is unlikely you could get COVID-19 from food, but they cannot rule out the possibility that it can be transmitted through food “by an infected person who has not thoroughly washed their hands.” They say the virus would likely be killed off in cooking of hot foods, but that this may not be the case in uncooked foods like salads and sandwiches.
Nonetheless, the FDA recommends you should continue to practice good hygiene practices when handling or preparing food. This includes washing your hands and surfaces often, separating raw meat from other foods, cooking to the right temperatures and refrigerating foods as soon as you can.
The United States Department of Agriculture goes into more detail on food safety. They recommend washing your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food. It’s also recommended that you sanitize surfaces and utensils that come in contact with raw meats.
If you do choose to use gloves when handling food or food utensils, the CDC recommends you wash your hands immediately after removing the gloves.