Coronavirus and food: Does cooking kill it?

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed our daily routine in almost every way from going to work and seeing friends to how we exercise.

And while we’re avoiding movie theaters, hair salons and even our workplace, it’s impossible to completely social distance when it comes to our food.

Whether we buy our meals at the grocery store or support our local restaurants with takeout and delivery, at some point the food might have been prepared or handled by someone with the coronavirus.

Recently, some of the nation's largest meat processing plants have been forced to close after the virus spread among workers.

All this begs the question: Can you get the coronavirus by eating and does cooking kill it?

While scientists are still studying the transmission of the novel virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there’s no evidence that the virus spreads through food, noting the virus primarily spreads through respiratory droplets.

The CDC recommends washing hands before and after handling food and packaging and disinfecting surfaces.

"In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures," the CDC says on its website.

Dr. Stephen Berger, the co-founder of GIDEON, the Global Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Network, tells The Los Angeles Times the question makes sense.

"Food items are, after all, objects which may be contaminated with the virus and placed in the mouth,” Berger says, “but like many other viruses, bacteria and parasites, these will be swallowed and most likely destroyed by stomach acids. Should the virus survive into the intestine, there is no pathway which will carry it to the lungs."

What temperature would kill the virus?

Foods cooked at 132.8 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the SARS virus, a disease closely related to COVID-19, Berger says. Most foods are cooked at or above that temperature.

The CDC says, "You should always handle and prepare food safely, including keeping raw meat separate from other foods, refrigerating perishable foods, and cooking meat to the right temperature to kill harmful germs."

What about foods that aren’t cooked?

Foods that are room temperature like salads or sandwiches could potentially harbor the virus, Harvard Medical School’s Coronavirus Resource Center says.

Is the virus more virulent than bacteria in food?

Berger tells The Times many species of bacteria are resistant to heat and can multiply in food, unlike viruses.

So it's still safe to get takeout?

Despite the unlikely spread through food, restaurant workers are using heightened food safety measures, including frequent hand washing, cleaning surfaces and utensils, cooking food at the right temperatures and staying home when they feel sick, according to Live Science.

"It's not that it's not possible," Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, tells Live Science. "There's always this possibility. But I want to make the best risk management decision based on the best science and evidence, and we just don't have any evidence" of transmission through food.

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So, yes -- as far as experts can say -- it appears safe.