When Should I Worry About...

How Long Can Coronavirus Survive on Food?

March 25, 2020 - Katie McCallum

Many of us have been dutifully familiarizing ourselves with the ways to protect ourselves and others from the new coronavirus (COVID-19). We're washing our hands. We're social distancing. We're cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces.

But what do we know about coronavirus as it relates to food? Are there extra precautions we should be taking while preparing our food? And what does it mean for our groceries?

The primary way that the new coronavirus spreads is from person-to-person, particularly through close, prolonged contact. But, like other coronaviruses, early evidence indicates that the new coronavirus can also live on different surfaces anywhere from hours to a few days.

While it's still unclear how long the virus can live on food, the good news is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that it's currently unaware of any cases of coronavirus being spread by food or food packaging.

This means that you don't need to take extra precautions while preparing and cooking your food — just the regular food safety precautions you're used to taking.

How to make sure you're preparing food safely

Here are the steps the FDA recommends you take while handling and cooking food:

Wash your hands. Since coronavirus can live on surfaces, it's important to practice proper hand washing before, during and after food preparation, as well as before you eat.

Wash your produce. There are many unknowns when it comes to how long coronavirus can live on food. Regardless, you should always thoroughly wash your produce with water before cooking it or eating it raw.

Clean the surfaces in your kitchen. Regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces in your kitchen, including counter tops and cabinet knobs, using an EPA-registered household disinfectant, a diluted bleach solution or an alcohol-based solution that's at least 70% alcohol.

Make sure your food is fully cooked. Most viruses are sensitive to the high temperatures used while cooking. Make sure you're following the minimum cooking temperatures for meat, poultry and other cooked foods.

Don't prepare food if you're sick. If you're sick, and especially if you're showing symptoms, it's best to avoid preparing food for other people.

What to know about take-out and food delivery

Whether you're great at cooking or just okay, you're probably going to feel the itch for something cooked by a professional eventually. But should you be worried about getting take-out or food delivered from a restaurant?

Restaurants are always expected to follow the food safety best practices and employee health policies that help keep people safe from illness. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the FDA has emphasized the need for food facilities to continue to be "vigilant in their hygiene practices, including frequent and proper hand-washing and routine cleaning of all surfaces."

There are also steps you can take to help reduce your chance of being exposed to the new coronavirus while picking up food or having food delivered, including:

  • Asking restaurants if they offer touch-free payment methods
  • Asking delivery people to practice contact-free delivery, such as leaving food at your doorstep
  • Washing your hands before and after you handle your food's packaging and plate your food


Concerned you may have COVID-19?

  • If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on where you should go.


This article was updated on May 29, 2020 to reflect the current state of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

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Categories: When Should I Worry About...