Food Safety and COVID-19

HSE Media Release: 2 June 2020

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness which spreads mainly through close contact with an infected person. There is currently no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through eating food. There is some evidence that it can survive on hard surfaces however the risk from handling food packing is very low and there is no evidence to date that it can be transmitted in this way either. However, in relation to food safety, we should take some extra precautions.

Grocery Shopping 
It is a good idea to make a list of what you need before you go shopping. Take your own shopping bags and, if possible, put items directly into the bags to avoid contact with baskets or trolleys. Sanitise your hands when you enter the shop and avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes. The wearing of gloves is not encouraged as this can give a false sense of security and your hands can get contaminated when you take them off.

If you are using a basket or trolley, sanitise the handle as this is a high contact surface. Try to use your non-dominant hand to pick up goods as most people are far more likely to touch their face with their dominant hand. Avoid touching foods in the shops you are not going to buy. Keep a safe physical distance of 2 metres from all other shoppers and staff and use contactless payment methods and self-service tills where you can. Sanitise your hands on leaving the shop and again when you get into your car, if travelling by car.

Unpacking Shopping 
When you come home, you should wash your hands straight away. It is not recommended that you leave your groceries outside your home e.g. in the car boot for a few hours before you bring it into your home. You should always put away your shopping as soon as you get home, especially perishable foods which must be stored in the fridge or freezer. It is not necessary to sanitise the outside of food packaging. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water. Once all the groceries are put away, clean the surface and then wash your hands again with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Cooking Food
Handwashing is a critical step in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and should be done before and after preparing or eating food. It is also important to regularly clean countertops and surfaces with soap and water or simple household disinfectants to help protect against Covid-19. The sharing of food and drinks is not encouraged. If you live with others aim to eat at least one meal together daily. Increasing socialization is especially important during this time.

Food Deliveries
If you get your groceries delivered it is best to have them left at the door. Try to put away food as soon as you can and once you have finished wash your hands again. If you get take-away food delivered, wash your hands before and after handling the packaging, practice social distancing or ideally have it dropped at the door.  Empty the contents into a clean dish, dispose of the packaging and wash your hands thoroughly before you eat.

Last updated on: 02 / 06 / 2020