Coronavirus Food Transmission

Apr 2, 2020
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Thinking about getting take-out, but am still confused by expert opinions. If touching one's face is a potential risk, then why wouldn't eating virus-contaminated food carry a risk? Virus on the face is risky because one could touch the virus-laden face and then touch (1) the eye; (2) nose or (3) mouth, which is what the experts guide. The means of infection presumably is through contact of the virus with the membranes across any of the above. I understand that the virus will not likely survive the stomach acid which is one key reason experts give in concluding that transmission through ingesting contaminated food is unlikely. But, how does one deposit the food straight into the stomach without passage through the mouth? If a carrier (who may even be asymptomatic) coughs, sneezes, or even just speaks or breaths (a risk based on the latest research out today) over the food, and I ingest it, is there really no or minimal risk? Should people then not worry about touching their mouths with virus-contaminated hands?
 
Nov 11, 2019
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Hey there!

Live Science did a great article on this, which you can find here: https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-food-risk.html

I'm no expert, but I do live and breathe here in these forums and hang out at the confluence of a lot of news and information coming through on this stuff, and I've picked up a few things.

So, first and foremost, when getting takeout or delivery, you want to reduce as much face-to-face as humanly possible. If you're having food delivered, set up a table or surface outside and have your food placed there. (If you're US-side, be sure to tip well, it's rough right now). Bring the package inside - remove the packaging itself and dump the food (try not to touch it directly while your handling the packaging) onto a plate or container of your own. Put the packaging in the garbage, wash your hands thoroughly, and eat. Experts have indicated that the virus doesn't do well on prepared hot food at all, so what you're looking to do is get the food onto your own safe serving items. You're good to eat.

If you're getting takeout, again, do your level best to limit the amount of face-to-face being done, and avoid touching hands or direct physical exchange. Use credit/debit instead of cash if you can, and consider applying hand sanitizer or a sanitizing wipe in-between using any point-of-sale terminal that others have touched. Once you have your food, again, you want to treat the containers as though they are contaminated - discard what you can, particularly any parts that may have been directly touched. Wipe down what you can with sanitizer, an alcohol or disinfecting wipe. Do your best. Either wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before eating. Fortunately, the food itself isn't the issue, it's the containers and surfaces and the potential to transmit virus from those to your face (making a bee-line into your respiratory system that way) is the thing to look out for.

Naturally, you'll also want to limit take-out as much as possible because it does involve more potential risk than cooking at home. In order of safest on down, I'd peg it to the following: Home Cooking > Delivery > Drive-Thru Pick-up Takeout > Walk-in Pick-up Takeout.
 
Apr 2, 2020
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Thank you. That is all good advice, and the care warranted with respect to direct person-to-person contact and food packaging is understood. My key concern is how long the virus can survive on the surface of the food itself. I know that people talk about survival periods of 3 hours in the air, 24 hours on porous surfaces, and several days on smooth and shiny surfaces. But, what about food? Burgers, burritos, subs, etc. For example, the buns and tortillas wraps for burritos etc do not usually come straight out of the ovens at virus-killing temperatures. If the virus makes it way onto a bun that makes the hamburger, what is the risk when that is ingested within the hour?
 
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Nov 11, 2019
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It's a respiratory virus - which means roughly that unless you're literally inhaling your food, you're gonna be okay. The CDC, FDA, WHO, and other organizations have indicated that there is no evidence the disease has been or can be transmitted by food. If you're really super worried and want to kill the virus on any food you consume, you can pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Coronavirus doesn't multiply on food. You *could* get it if someone with Coronavirus sneezed on an apple, then touched the apple, then touched your face, but you're far, far more likely to get it if you're standing next to someone at the market where you're picking up fruit.
 
Apr 2, 2020
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Thanks again. I know I am still missing something. I understand that it's primarily respiratory. But, if inhaling / breathing the virus is the only means of transmission, why is touching one's face a risk? Is that because one is more likely to breath in the virus that is on one's face? What about the warning against touching one's mouth? Purely a risk of then breathing in the virus once the virus is attached to one's mouth? No risk of transmission through the membranes that line our mouth (and nose and eyes)? That will also mean that, as an example, using utensils left over by an infected person will not risk transmission as long as one is not inhaling on the surface of the utensils or touching one's face after using them to eat. I want to be convinced but am still a bit incredulous. I actually did get the take-out. I will be reheating everything, which will not taste nearly as good afterwards, but will afford the peace of mind.
 
Apr 1, 2020
18
5
35
Thinking about getting take-out, but am still confused by expert opinions. If touching one's face is a potential risk, then why wouldn't eating virus-contaminated food carry a risk? Virus on the face is risky because one could touch the virus-laden face and then touch (1) the eye; (2) nose or (3) mouth, which is what the experts guide. The means of infection presumably is through contact of the virus with the membranes across any of the above. I understand that the virus will not likely survive the stomach acid which is one key reason experts give in concluding that transmission through ingesting contaminated food is unlikely. But, how does one deposit the food straight into the stomach without passage through the mouth? If a carrier (who may even be asymptomatic) coughs, sneezes, or even just speaks or breaths (a risk based on the latest research out today) over the food, and I ingest it, is there really no or minimal risk? Should people then not worry about touching their mouths with virus-contaminated hands?
I think the reason experts have concluded no evidence that food is a path is because they have originally classified it a a respiratory virus. But now that the virus has been found in stools like a fecal-oral virus, I think the evidence that food is a path is now in. Covid-19 is certainly acting like a hybrid that can be contracted by either inhalation or ingestion.
 
Nov 11, 2019
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26
580
But, if inhaling / breathing the virus is the only means of transmission, why is touching one's face a risk? Is that because one is more likely to breath in the virus that is on one's face? What about the warning against touching one's mouth?
The best way to envision this, as put by some others, is to think of the virus as glitter that you just can't see. A few things get rid of the glitter - soap being the best option. As it is a respiratory disease, it's looking to find its way to your lungs, but it can certainly get there other ways apart from being inhaled. The reason they offer that you shouldn't touch your face, is because your face has a lot of entry points that serve as opportunities for the virus to get in. Your nose foremost, but your eyes, your mouth, ears, and other surface entry points into your body that make for really easy pathways for the virus.

Purely a risk of then breathing in the virus once the virus is attached to one's mouth? No risk of transmission through the membranes that line our mouth (and nose and eyes)? That will also mean that, as an example, using utensils left over by an infected person will not risk transmission as long as one is not inhaling on the surface of the utensils or touching one's face after using them to eat. I want to be convinced but am still a bit incredulous. I actually did get the take-out. I will be reheating everything, which will not taste nearly as good afterwards, but will afford the peace of mind.
The biggest reason for lack of concern about food is that your digestive system is going to kill the virus, and the virus doesn't grow or thrive on food. You would not want to use utensils an infected person had used, because in that case, you'd be touching them with your hands, and at some point your hands will end up on your face.

If you want to be absolutely, completely 100%, there's a useful comprehensive guide over at Serious Eats that you can take a look at as well - https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/food-safety-and-coronavirus-a-comprehensive-guide.html#sterilize 149 degrees looks to be the magic number. But also note that doing this is probably overkill - there is no substantial evidence that novel coronavirus has been transmitted via food.

I think the reason experts have concluded no evidence that food is a path is because they have originally classified it a a respiratory virus. But now that the virus has been found in stools like a fecal-oral virus, I think the evidence that food is a path is now in. Covid-19 is certainly acting like a hybrid that can be contracted by either inhalation or ingestion.
Could you link to that finding? Finding the virus in stool doesn't indicate that it had infected. Our digestive system is a pretty epic set of processes that passes a whole bunch of horrifying things without subjecting us to infection, thankfully. The current understanding of Covid-19 is that it is spread through inhalation, and that's the standing knowledge unless there's been affirmed, verifiable updates.
 
Apr 2, 2020
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The best way to envision this, as put by some others, is to think of the virus as glitter that you just can't see. A few things get rid of the glitter - soap being the best option. As it is a respiratory disease, it's looking to find its way to your lungs, but it can certainly get there other ways apart from being inhaled. The reason they offer that you shouldn't touch your face, is because your face has a lot of entry points that serve as opportunities for the virus to get in. Your nose foremost, but your eyes, your mouth, ears, and other surface entry points into your body that make for really easy pathways for the virus.



The biggest reason for lack of concern about food is that your digestive system is going to kill the virus, and the virus doesn't grow or thrive on food. You would not want to use utensils an infected person had used, because in that case, you'd be touching them with your hands, and at some point your hands will end up on your face.

If you want to be absolutely, completely 100%, there's a useful comprehensive guide over at Serious Eats that you can take a look at as well - https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/food-safety-and-coronavirus-a-comprehensive-guide.html#sterilize 149 degrees looks to be the magic number. But also note that doing this is probably overkill - there is no substantial evidence that novel coronavirus has been transmitted via food.



Could you link to that finding? Finding the virus in stool doesn't indicate that it had infected. Our digestive system is a pretty epic set of processes that passes a whole bunch of horrifying things without subjecting us to infection, thankfully. The current understanding of Covid-19 is that it is spread through inhalation, and that's the standing knowledge unless there's been affirmed, verifiable updates.
Found article below from the LANCET that explains modes of transmission through the body's mucous membranes. This is contact, not inhalation. So, the question remains - if virus lands on food and is ingested prior to the end of its survival period on food surface (however short it might be), then if the food is consumed (again, passage through the mouth and therefore the mucous membranes, as opposed to depositing straight into the stomach protected by stomach acid), is there no risk of infection? I read it as carrying a potential risk.

Chaolin Huang and colleagues
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reported the epidemiology, symptoms, and treatment of patients infected by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan, China. As ophthalmologists, we believe that transmission of 2019-nCoV through the eyes was ignored.
On Jan 22, Guangfa Wang, a member of the national expert panel on pneumonia, reported that he was infected by 2019-nCoV during the inspection in Wuhan.
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He wore an N95 mask but did not wear anything to protect his eyes. Several days before the onset of pneumonia, Wang complained of redness of the eyes. Unprotected exposure of the eyes to 2019-nCoV in the Wuhan Fever Clinic might have allowed the virus to infect the body.
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View related content for this article
Infectious droplets and body fluids can easily contaminate the human conjunctival epithelium.
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Respiratory viruses are capable of inducing ocular complications in infected patients, which then leads to respiratory infection.
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Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is predominantly transmitted through direct or indirect contact with mucous membranes in the eyes, mouth, or nose.
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The fact that exposed mucous membranes and unprotected eyes increased the risk of SARS-CoV transmission
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suggests that exposure of unprotected eyes to 2019-nCoV could cause acute respiratory infection.
Thus, Huang and colleagues
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should have analysed conjunctival scrapings from both confirmed and suspected 2019-nCoV cases during the onset of symptoms. The respiratory tract is probably not the only transmission route for 2019-nCoV, and all ophthalmologists examining suspected cases should wear protective eyewear.
 
Apr 1, 2020
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The best way to envision this, as put by some others, is to think of the virus as glitter that you just can't see. A few things get rid of the glitter - soap being the best option. As it is a respiratory disease, it's looking to find its way to your lungs, but it can certainly get there other ways apart from being inhaled. The reason they offer that you shouldn't touch your face, is because your face has a lot of entry points that serve as opportunities for the virus to get in. Your nose foremost, but your eyes, your mouth, ears, and other surface entry points into your body that make for really easy pathways for the virus.

Trouble with gastrointestinal viruses is that when they are ingested they can infect by passing through mouth walls and esophageal tube before reaching stomach.



The biggest reason for lack of concern about food is that your digestive system is going to kill the virus, and the virus doesn't grow or thrive on food. You would not want to use utensils an infected person had used, because in that case, you'd be touching them with your hands, and at some point your hands will end up on your face.

If you want to be absolutely, completely 100%, there's a useful comprehensive guide over at Serious Eats that you can take a look at as well - https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/food-safety-and-coronavirus-a-comprehensive-guide.html#sterilize 149 degrees looks to be the magic number. But also note that doing this is probably overkill - there is no substantial evidence that novel coronavirus has been transmitted via food.



Could you link to that finding? Finding the virus in stool doesn't indicate that it had infected. Our digestive system is a pretty epic set of processes that passes a whole bunch of horrifying things without subjecting us to infection, thankfully. The current understanding of Covid-19 is that it is spread through inhalation, and that's the standing knowledge unless there's been affirmed, verifiable updates.
Link is https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/926856 .
True there is no way the Covid virus found in stool was the one ingested. It would have been produced in the body and shed to the stool in the bowel like a gastrointestinal virus does, ie. Norwalk virus or stomach flu. If we Google Norwalk Virus transmission paths, this pops up:
Norwalk and Noroviruses are transmitted primarily by the fecal-oral route. Having direct contact with vomit or feces from an infected person and then transferring the virus to the mouth from the hands primarily spreads the viruses. ... These viruses are very contagious and only a few are needed to cause an illness.
If Covid-19 was a true respiratory virus like regular flu, I do not believe it would be found in stools of infected patients, but would be open to evidence otherwise.
 
Apr 1, 2020
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I think the reason experts have concluded no evidence that food is a path is because they have originally classified it a a respiratory virus. But now that the virus has been found in stools like a fecal-oral virus, I think the evidence that food is a path is now in. Covid-19 is certainly acting like a hybrid that can be contracted by either inhalation or ingestion.
Course this paper indicates real threat of this virus is sever acute lung infections associated with direct inhalation of the virus. Case severity associated with indirect transmission such as food ingestion tends to lead to milder cases and better infection outcomes. So if you are of view that sooner or later we are all going to get this virus one way the other, food ingestion may not be the big deal I thought it was. https://www.preprints.org/manuscript/202003.0246/v1
 
Nov 11, 2019
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Course this paper indicates real threat of this virus is sever acute lung infections associated with direct inhalation of the virus. Case severity associated with indirect transmission such as food ingestion tends to lead to milder cases and better infection outcomes. So if you are of view that sooner or later we are all going to get this virus one way the other, food ingestion may not be the big deal I thought it was.
Exactly - it's the respiratory aspect that's the potential killer here. And it's also why the CDC is now recommending donning a mask if you have to go out for supplies. Inhalation through droplet spread or contact with hands (that then end up on the face/nose) and subsequent inhalation appears to be the primary vector and transmission method. Fortunately, much, much less of a worry with food.
 
Apr 2, 2020
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Course this paper indicates real threat of this virus is sever acute lung infections associated with direct inhalation of the virus. Case severity associated with indirect transmission such as food ingestion tends to lead to milder cases and better infection outcomes. So if you are of view that sooner or later we are all going to get this virus one way the other, food ingestion may not be the big deal I thought it was. https://www.preprints.org/manuscript/202003.0246/v1
Thanks! Transmission via food is possible, but severity is much less. That makes sense.
 

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