These are scary times, and there is a lot of false information out there, so it’s important to make sure that you are finding answers using reliable resources. Questions about food safety during this crisis have become a hot topic, so here are a few FAQs with answers from credible organizations that you can count on. Please keep in mind that recommendations may change, so make sure to check in the resources listed below for the most up to date information.
How much food should I stock up on for my family?
According to recommendations from the FDA and FEMA, families should shop for and maintain enough food for 1-2 weeks. Buying in extreme quantities, or stockpiling essential items, can cause shortages in the supply chain for those in need.
Should I wear a face mask to the grocery store?
Yes—as of April 19, shoppers in groceries, markets, and pharmacies in Pennsylvania are required to wear a mask, as are employees. This is for personal safety, as well as for the safety of others. When in a grocery or market, practice physical distancing and maintain a six-foot distance away from other shoppers. Wipe down any cart handles with a disinfecting wipe, and avoid using cash (if personal circumstances allow). It is also recommended to use a hand sanitizer when leaving the facility. Wash hands upon returning home, and again after unpacking grocery items. Disinfect any surfaces that packaging touched.
Is it OK to order food delivery?
Yes, but try to avoid in-person contact with delivery personnel, if possible. Request that items be left in a safe place for retrieval. If this is not possible, stay six feet away from the delivery person. Pay (and tip!) in advance. Wash your hands after accepting the delivery, and again after unpacking.
What precautions should be taken when cleaning groceries?
As always, it is recommended that consumers rinse fruits and vegetables prior to consumption, using a scrub brush on sturdy items (such as potatoes or carrots). Wipe off the lids of cans prior to opening. Regularly clean and sanitize food surfaces.
According to the CDC, FDA, and USDA, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmitting COVID-19. In an abundance of caution, experts say that wiping down packaging and allowing them to air dry is fine. There is currently no recommendation provided to disinfect groceries further and you should never put soap or bleach on or in groceries as they are not safe to consume.
Is it ok to use food that is past the expiration date on the package?
Maybe! It depends on the type of food, and how it is stored. Read the USDA's resources and guidance on what is (and is not) safe to eat past the expiration date. The FoodKeeper app is also a great option for learning how to best maximize the quality of food storage.
These are just a few commonly asked questions. Keep in mind that the best way to protect yourself is to frequently wash your hands, practice physical distancing, and stay home.
For more answers, and for the most up to date information, check out these resources:
- CDC - Running Essential Errands
- FDA - Shopping for Food During the COVID-19 Pandemic - Information for Consumers
- USDA - 10 Tips: Be Food Safe
- Foodsafety.gov - FoodKeeper App
- Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University - Food Safety Recommendations & Frequently Asked Questions for the Consumer
- FEMA - Coronavirus Rumor Control
- City of Philadelphia COVID-19 Updates
If you are in need of food, you can find free, nutritious food through many local agencies, or for more information call 1(800)5-HUNGRY or 311.