LAKE ALFRED, Fla. — Consumers are being bombarded with tips for what to do with their groceries during the coronavirus crisis. Leave them in the garage for three days? Wash the produce with soapy water? Wipe all packaging down with disinfectant wipes?
Listen to the science, say University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Food Science and Human Nutrition faculty. Food production safety measures secure the food supply.
“There is consistent agreement among the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19,” explained Michelle Danyluk, UF/IFAS professor of food microbiology. “The FDA has also issued guidance that if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 they do not anticipate that food products would need to be recalled or be withdrawn from the market.”
Danyluk and colleague Travis Chapin, a state specialized UF/IFAS Extension agent for food safety, work at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center. They advise that produce growers, harvesters, packers, and coolers should continue to follow the good hygiene practices they already have in place (e.g., washing hands and cleaning and sanitizing surface that may contact food or hands, often) as part of their food safety programs when handling produce.
They acknowledge that there has been some confusion about sanitation practices. FDA and CDC do not recommend any additional “disinfection” in food facilities beyond routine cleaning at this time due to concerns around COVID-19 (https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-frequently-asked-questions). The primary way to control Coronavirus infection is to prevent spread between people, including workers. Farms, harvesters, and coolers should continue their vigilance around general hygiene and food safety practices.
“Coronaviruses need a living host (human or animal) to grow in and cannot multiply on produce or on common touch or food contact surfaces,” explained Michelle Danyluk, professor of food microbiology.
Additional resources include:
FDA Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) FAQ https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/mcm-issues/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-frequently-asked-questions
WHO Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
UF IFAS resources devoted to considerations for COVID-19 listed here under publications https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_covid19, information is frequently added to this page, and is being translated into Spanish https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_spa_covid19
The UF/IFAS EDIS link above includes factsheets directly related to produce production; please find additional information here: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FS/FS35100.pdf.
Travis Chapin, MS
State Specialized Extension Agent, Food Safety
University of Florida IFAS Extension
Citrus Research and Education Center
Michelle Danyluk, PhD
Professor, Food Microbiology
UF IFAS CREC
–Brad Buck, UF/IFAS