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Can I Get Coronavirus From Food? Scientists Say Yes And To Step Away From the Deli Meats.

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here. Research has confirmed the coronavirus can survive on hard surfaces, like plastic and metal, for days. But it turns out, food can also be a carrier of the contagious respiratory illness, especially items like deli meats, salads, and certain fruits. “Moist, semi-solid…

Can I Get Coronavirus From Food? Scientists Say Yes And To Step Away From the Deli Meats.

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.

Research has confirmed the coronavirus can survive on hard surfaces, like plastic and metal, for days. But it turns out, food can also be a carrier of the contagious respiratory illness, especially items like deli meats, salads, and certain fruits.

“Moist, semi-solid foods are a wonderful medium for microbes and can boost the longevity of the virus,” said Dr. Jack Caravanos, a clinical professor at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. “It’s as good of an environment for the virus as your mouth.”

Cities and states across the U.S., like New York and Illinois, have recently announced lockdowns of varying severity to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 15,000 people and killed 202 others in the country alone. But governments have deemed places like grocery stores and takeout restaurants “essential,” which allows them to continue operating so people can buy and deliver foods in the weeks to come.

But those markets can become centers for spreading the disease if people aren’t mindful, despite COVID-19 not being a foodborne illness.

“We’re still learning a lot about the transmission of this virus, but it’s not a foodborne illness similar to salmonella or hepatitis A or other things we’re a bit more familiar with,” Dorothy Tovar, a PhD candidate in Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University told Vice News. “But it’s definitely possible that if you had a salad prepared by someone who was sick and didn’t wash their hands, the virus may be transmitted through food in that way.”

Currently, no documented cases of the coronavirus have been transmitted through food, according to Tovar. Still, experts had some basic tips for people to follow.

  • Avoid uncooked and open-air meals, like from a food truck or buffet.
  • Don’t use unfamiliar utensils.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables.
  • Cook food at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which neutralizes the virus.
  • Buy packaged foods when possible (if you can live with the environmental impact).

To start, deli meats, produce, and open-air meals are particularly vulnerable. The virus can last up to five days on these products, according to Caravanos. The microbe can also be a threat to humans if it finds its way onto everyday metal and plastic items, such as forks, spoons, and knives. The virus can live up to 72 on these surfaces, according to a recent study from the University of California. Caravanos said that the virus can survive on glass surfaces for up to 48 hours.

“The danger here is really from potentially infected people handling shared utensils, and then you getting your own food and not washing your hands afterward,” Tovar said. “Going on to touch your mouth, nose or eyes afterward guarantees transmission.”

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“It’s as good of an environment for the virus as your mouth.”

States and cities have been proactive about shutting down restaurants, especially buffets and other communal dining options, which will help curb the spread of the disease. As part of their lockdown, cities in states like California, Maryland, Colorado, New York, and others have also limited restaurants to take out and delivery.

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