How to safely sanitize your food and packages according to the FDA
Here's what you need to know.
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When it comes to preventing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the less you're in contact with other people and public spaces, the better. But even if you're staying home and getting everything—including groceries and food—delivered to your doorstep, you're still coming in contact with packages, mail, and even fresh produce that's been passed through the hands of a lot of people. I.e. there's always a risk that said items have been handled by someone who's carrying the virus.
To ease those concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released an updated set of guidelines on how consumers can protect against coronavirus when shopping. Below are the top tips for sanitizing your food and packages, according to both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How to sanitize food packaging
The FDA says that "there is no evidence" that food packaging has been linked to spreading coronavirus. But if you're still worried, the agency notes, "You can wipe down product packaging and allow it to air dry, as an extra precaution." Our senior lab testing technician (and resident germ guru), Jonathan Chan, agrees, adding, "Based on the most up-to-date information, there is a negligible risk of getting COVID-19 from food packaging. However, if you're concerned, I'd suggest handling concerning packages while wearing gloves and store food for three days before use."
The one exception is canned goods—the FDA recommends that you always clean the lids before you open them. Additionally, the updated guidelines remind people to always wash your hands as soon as you get home from the store and then again after you unpack all of your groceries.
How to sanitize produce
Experts told USA Today that it's unlikely you'll contract coronavirus from produce. However, there is a chance that if someone with the virus sneezed or coughed on your fruits and veggies, there's a chance it could get on your hands—and into your mouth if you don't wash your hands or your produce. The solution? The FDA says to rinse all fruits and vegetables (even those with rinds or peels that you remove, like bananas) and to scrub "firm produce" (like potatoes) with a clean produce brush.
How to sanitize packages and mail
According to the CDC, you aren't likely to get coronavirus from any packages or mail delivered to your home. "In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures," the CDC writes on its website.
However, studies have found that coronavirus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours—so if your delivery person is carrying the virus, it could be spread to you. Experts suggest opening all packages outside (you can even wear gloves as added protection if you're concerned) and disposing of the boxes immediately. Be sure to wash your hands for 20 seconds per the CDC's guidelines after handling your packages, too.
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