One Year Later: How Safe Is Your Food During the Pandemic?

Image of elderly man with a mask leaning over the produce section in a market.

Luis Alvarez/DigitalVision/Getty

Key Takeaways

  • There is to date no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by foodborne routes, and food suppliers have installed strict standards in place to protect employees from contracting COVID-19,
  • Research is being conducted and evaluated frequently to share evolving best practices with the food service industry and consumers via a million dollar science based website initiative called FoodCoVNET.
  • You can feel safe about eating in America and do not need to wash your food packages. with any chemicals or detergents. Simply running produce under clean running water and discarding the outer leaves of leafy greens is sufficient enough.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people had concerns about food safety and the risk of infection through any number of sources.

From washing produce in bleach to scrubbing delivery boxes with detergents, Americans have gone to some extremes in the name of "food safety" over the last year, despite how dangerous and unsafe some of those practices are.

After a year of studying and understanding how COVID-19 is transmitted, leading health authorities have issued powerful statements to help reassure consumers that the food supply in America is actually quite safe.

What Do Food Safety Experts Say

Dr. LeeAnn Jaykus, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor, Food Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at NC State University in Raleigh, and Toby Amidor, MS, RD,CDN, FAND, food safety expert and Wall Street Journal best selling cookbook author, are both nationally-renowned food safety experts that have played crucial roles in helping disseminate the facts as research has emerged over the past year.

After hearing Dr. Jaykus speak and and interviewing her personally, I myself am even more reassured than ever before about the safety of our food system here in the United States.

Dr. Jaykus reassures consumers that our food system remains very safe: "There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by foodborne routes," she says. "Since it is not a foodborne disease, your food is safe to eat, especially with all the controls the food system has put into place. If you did get sick from eating, it would be something else, not COVID-19."

To further support this statement, Dr. Jaykus provided the statements from leading health authorities that confirm: COVID-19 is highly unlikely to be transmitted via food.

  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19.”
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): "There is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States or imported from countries affected by COVID-19 can transmit COVID-19.”
  • World Health Organization (WHO): “There is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the transmission route is through person-to-person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”
  • International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF): “ICMSF believes that it is highly unlikely that the ingestion of SARS CoV-2 will result in illness; there is no documented evidence that food is a significant source and/or vehicle for transmission of SARS CoV-2."

Dr. LeeAnn Jaykus

There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by foodborne routes. It is not a foodborne disease. If you did get sick from eating a specific food it would be something else present on or in the food, not COVID-19.

— Dr. LeeAnn Jaykus

Amidor echoed Dr. Jaykus statements and encouraged consumers to look at the many precautions the food system players have put into place to not only protect employees but the food as well.

Measures the Food Supply Chain Have Implemented to Promote Food Safety

Both Dr. Jaykus and Amidor shared positive messages about what they have seen from the food supply chain to promote food safety for their employees and consumers.

From hand washing and maintaining 6-feet of spatial distance, to plexiglass dividers, face coverings, and temperature checks, farmers, ranchers, food suppliers, manufacturers, and store attendants have done a thorough job implementing best practice standards over the past year.

Some parts of the food system have been able to place employees in cohorts and distribute break times in a more staggered manner to prevent overlap in hopes this will help reduce exposure as well. Many have also implemented more frequent in-services and employee trainings to help them feel more secure in how to handle their work safely during the pandemic.

How to Practice Food Safety Yourself

While it is absolutely challenging to stay up-to-date on all the research coming out, there is now a new online portal to help support both the food supply chain as well as consumers feel secure in their best practices. FoodCoVNet, a million dollar funded website by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is a reputable, science-based source that covers all the latest research in one place.

Developed by a leading team of scientist from North Carolina State University, this website provides a hub that all can access to ensure uniform information is shared in a digestible way across the United States.

While many resources are directed towards the food supply chain, there are many useful infographics that Dr, Jaykus has helped review that consumers can benefit from in their own home (like these here).

At the end of the day, what matters is returning to basics, especially in your own practices, Dr. Jaykus says. This includes washing your hands and/or using hand sanitizer, avoiding touching your face, running produce under cool, running water, wearing a mask, and social distancing.

While there is promise of a "new normal" in sight with vaccination distribution increasing, we need to remember what has helped us come this far in the last year.

What This Means For You

The United States food supply is one of the safest in the world. There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food. Plus, the food supply chain has implemented various proactive measures to help protect employees and make consumers feel more secure in their food purchasing.

While the public should still practice COVID-19 best practices that include wearing their masks, socially distancing, and washing their hands, they can absolutely return to feeling safe with their food purchasing and trusting what they are eating.

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control, Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). December 31, 2020

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Covid-19 frequently asked questions. FDA. Published online March 1, 2021.

  3. World Health Organization, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Food safety for consumers. August 14, 2020.

  4. International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF), ICMSF opinion on SARS-CoV-2 and its relationship to food safety. September 3, 2020.