No cases of Coronavirus transmission via food have been described yet; but, as the popular Italian virologist Burioni says, there is no such thing as “zero risk” in medicine. So we cannot answer the question for sure, but, therefore, we can certainly say that the risk of infection through the ingestion of Covid19-contaminated food is extremely low.
Antonello Paparella, Professor of Food Microbiology at the University of Teramo, interviewed by the Fatto Alimentare, is of the same mind. He points out that, generally, viruses causing respiratory diseases are not transmitted via food, but in the case of this new Coronavirus, there are still no evidence to support. If transmission via food were to be identified, however, according to the Professor, it would be an exception and certainly not the rule.
No need to worry, therefore, but we must be wise and careful: “with small and banal measures, this theoretical risk already limited, can be made even lower”, Burioni says. These are:
Avoid consumption of raw or low-cooked food of animal origin. Furthermore, handle them carefully to avoid contamination.
You must take some precautions even while you are manipulating them. Before the cooking, if we put raw fish or meat into the fridge, we must put them in sealed containers and keep them separate to other food cooked which needs to be kept in covered containers.
According to OMS data, coronavirus are sensitive to normal cooking conditions and they are completely deactivated at 70 degrees centigrade; so, if you want the risk to be completely eliminated, you have to eat cooked food instead of raw one.
Please note: the virus cannot survive the cooking, but he lives very well in the fridge (where it is not able to replicate himself), even more in the freezer. “There is no problem for industrial food, because pasteurization procedures and sanitization are proved to be able to eliminate the Sars virus, which is a close relative of the new coronavirus” says Professor Paparella.
Do we still need to say we must wash our hands? We think we all know that.
What to do with fruits and vegetables we cannot cook?
Professor Paparella says that “fruits and vegetables, as opposed to fish and meat, have superficial structures which make the persistence of the micro-organism more difficult”. If you want the risk of infection to be lowered, to accurately wash fruit and vegetables in tap water is generally sufficient, maybe sanitize them.
Even in this case, however, you need to have some small precautions to avoid the slightest risk, such as immediately eliminating any external packaging (for example, the trays in which fresh vegetables are prepared) or the disposable bags that may be used, and clean the kitchen surfaces with which they have came into contact.
According to Il Fatto Alimentare, some disinfectants have proven more effective than others against coronaviruses: ethanol, i.e. alcohol, 62-71%, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide and sodium hypochlorite (the now famous Amuchina, or more simply a bleach) at 0.1% are able to eliminate the virus in a minute. But these are precautions that, at a domestic level, make sense only in the case of quarantine or cohabitation with people potentially exposed to the virus.
We hope to were comprehensive and understandable, and we close by remembering that observance of good hygiene practices when handling, preparing and storing fresh and cooked food are rules that, like washing your hands, should always be adopted, not only in the event of an epidemic.
Stay safe! Stay home! Everything’s gonna be fine!