RALEIGH, N.C. — NC State Extension food safety specialist and associate professor, Dr. Ben Chapman, spoke with N.C. Farm Bureau recently about the bumper crop of berries in North Carolina, and the food safety implications related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
“I don’t have any hesitation in consuming berries at all, from a COVID-19 standpoint,” says Chapman. “Right now, we don’t have any information, any evidence, any indication that food or food packaging is the source of transmission for getting sick and getting COVID-19.”
The top risk factor, says Chapman, is being close to other people, hence social distancing guidelines.
According to Chapman, the food industry is highly focused on food safety in non-COVID-19 times, “we’re constantly looking at cleaning and sanitizing.” “The infrastructure has been there to manage other food safety concerns,” from food manufacturing and processing through to restaurants and grocery stores, which gives farmers and producers a head start related to food safety.
While COVID-19 isn’t a foodborne disease, it can spread through the air and on surfaces. You can take precautions to reduce your already very low risk of foodborne illness by cleaning and sanitizing surfaces at home and washing and rinsing your fresh produce.
Perhaps the best news of all for farmers, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has indicated that the state’s strawberry and blueberry stands, as well as pick-your-own berry farms, can continue to operate and serve customers as long as they have social distancing guidelines in place.
Some farmers who sell berries directly from their farms are using internet tools to accept orders and arrange for roadside pickup and even home delivery of fresh berries. Consumers are encouraged to check with their local farms to find out specific details before visiting.
Find farms and pick-your-own berries locations near you with N.C. Farm Fresh.
–Justin Moore, N.C. State Extension