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People are more dangerous than food! (COVID-19 food safety tips)

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people are most-likely far more dangerous than food Whatever food you can get via the least amount of human contact — that most-likely is going to be the safest food right now

People are more dangerous than food Eating out of your pantry and garden would be best, but for most of us who aren't doomsday preppers, that's not a viable longterm meal plan So, in this video we're going to talk about getting food from a grocery store and getting takeout or delivery food from a restaurant — how to bring in food from the outside world while minimally exposing yourself to the buggies that have brought the restaurant industry and the rest of the world to a near halt "Like most viruses, they need a host So they need a living being for it to be a host

" This is Dr Angela Shaw, a food microbiology and safety professor at Iowa State University "The actual strain does not like the host of food or a lot of our normal food packaging surfaces like plastics and cardboards" What Dr Shaw is saying is consistent with what we're hearing from the U

S Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it's also what we're hearing from the more easily alarmed European Food Safety Agency They're all saying there is no evidence yet of COVID-19 being transmitted through food or food packaging It's conceivable, it's possible, but the experts as yet are not terribly worried about it, and why not? Here in the United States, for many years now, another virus has been making us sick via food all the time: Norovirus "Norovirus is our number-one reason — if you were to eat something and you get sick, it's the number-one

And it is a fecal-oral route So it's people not washing their hands, and then serving you, and then you consuming that" Yeah, pretty gross, right? And it's conceivable that COVID-19 could make its way into your body via the same "route" Somebody is sick, they don't wash their hands after doing you-know-what, and they turn around and they serve you some food The virus doesn't have to live on that food for very long if you turn around and you eat it right away, and it gets into your body

But here's the difference: Norovirus causes a gastrointestinal disease It attacks the organs of your digestive system It doesn't attack your other organs In contrast, COVID-19 causes a respiratory disease "With these kind of respiratory viruses, the consensus is that the target tissues are in the gut-respiratory tract

" This is Dr Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia "It doesn't normally illicit symptoms in other organs So the assumption is it doesn't really affect other organs when you ingest it" But Dr

Diez cautions that's an assumption that's based on very little data Very little research has been finished on COVID-19 yet It's just too new Public health experts like him are basing their advice in large measure on what they know about much older viruses that are kinda similar We know that we don't get sick from eating flu or common cold viruses

You can eat them and it won't do anything to you Common cold and COVID-19 are both coronaviruses, so we assume that if you eat coronavirus it's not gonna make you sick Pretty good assumption, but it's just an assumption right now One thing we know for sure is that cooking kills COVID-19, just like it does almost everything else, so Dr Diez advises favoring cooked foods generally right now, especially for fresh produce

"If there is any exposed food in the grocery store, it could be vegetables Because, first of all, they are set out in ways that probably would be more prone to have any aerosol falling onto them They are open" You gotta think about the way we know that COVID-19 is definitely being transmitted right now, which is via respiratory droplets — infected people coughing, sneezing, breathing A sick person in the grocery store could cough or even just breath a droplet out that lands over on the carrots

Now let's just say that you eat that carrot raw Like we just said, best guess is, ingesting the virus isn't gonna do anything to you The greater risk is you're gonna touch the carrot, get the virus on your hands, and then you're gonna touch your face — your eyes, or your nose — places where we know coronavirus can get into your respiratory system and make you sick And this is why the consistent message from public health experts has been, 1) Keep your distance from people so that you don't inhale their droplets, and 2) Wash your hands Specifically, wash them in plain-ol' hand soap

Soap dissolves the fat membranes that hold the virus together The virus literally falls apart in soap So, should you do the same to your veggies? "Don't do it I mean, I've seen all the videos of people using soap I'm like, soap? Come on, people

Soap is an irritant It's gonna cause you to have vomiting and diarrhea" The entire conversation that we had just now is a bit of a distraction, because again, what we know is that COVID-19 isn't really food-borne, at least not in practice It is airborne It is primarily transmitted person to person

That's why restaurant dining rooms are closed, all over the world The big problem isn't the food — it's us being around each other in close quarters, talking, laughing, carrying on and, yes, inhaling each other's spittle Likewise the available evidence suggests that what's really dangerous at the grocery store is not what's on the shelves It's the other people — people around you body-checking you on their way to get the last pack of toilet paper for god-knows-what reason and breathing the same air as you They're the danger

My main grocery store is doing a terrific job of keeping everybody far apart from each other They've got markers on the floor in the check-out line showing you where to stand, and they've put up transparent partitions between the clerks and the customers But depending on how crazy your grocery store is, and your individual risk factors, you might want to stay away And therefore cooking at home might not be the safest option for you if it requires that you go out to the store to get groceries In which case, you need to get food to your house without having much human contact, and one option would be to get your groceries delivered, either to your house or into your car

"So me personally, I just picked up my groceries this morning from our local grocery store, and that was a matter of me placing it online, and then when they came out, I popped my trunk, the put it in my car and I drove home What happened? I unpacked my groceries in there and immediately washed my hands I'm good" And in that scenario, you've avoided any direct human contact Your remaining risk would be, again, from contaminated droplets — either on the food, or on the packaging

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There is one study, published mid-March in the New England Journal of Medicine, where researches looked to see how long COVID-19 remains viable on various surfaces, including plastic and cardboard By the way, as you look at this, you're not gonna see the word "COVID-19" You're gonna see "SARS-CoV-1" and "SARS-CoV-2" SARS-CoV-1 is what scientists are now calling the SARS virus that hit us back in 2003 SARS-CoV-2 is what scientists are now calling COVID-19, or what most us were calling coronavirus a few months ago

SARS-CoV-2 — that's not the official, technical name Anyway According to these experiments, the virus lasts on cardboard up to a day, and up to three days on plastic Sounds like a long time, but it starts to decay exponentially the instant it's deposited on that surface, therefore your chances of being infected via those surfaces probably goes down exponentially too as the clock ticks This is one reason why Dr

Shaw isn't so worried about her grocery bags, and she isn't so worried about take-out or delivery bags either "even if the person delivering it has the COVD-19, because literally they would have to — coming up to your door, sneeze on it, or like put droplets on it You've have to grab that exact area and then immediately touch yourself to infect yourself" Unlikely, but possible So, unpack the food, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, and then eat

While living in lockdown, we've been ordering a lot lately from Satterfield's, probably my favorite barbecue place here in Macon, Georgia — and that's saying a lot "Um, and I'll get pulled pork, and can I also get a side of the butter beans?" From what I can see, Satterfield's owner Ben Hampton and his team are doing everything right in this crisis, which hit them, by the way, right after they'd completed a lengthy renovation of their dining room "Now we're back outside, due to the current condition that we're in, so we're just kinda out here doing this now, cuz people still have to eat" At lunchtime, they're selling food across this outdoor table, trying to keep that six-foot or two-meter distance we're supposed to keep from each other right now I'm following the rules too — notice my six-foot mic boom

They've also started doing call-in and pick-up orders in the afternoon, and in the evening, they're doing deliveries, which is a whole new business for them It's a business that they've taken on in order to replace the catering business that they have lost as every single gathering in the entire world has been canceled "You can't get back a catering for 250 people But throughout these evening deliveries and the pick-ups in the afternoon, it's definitely — it's lessening that blow for us, and allowing us to at least, you know, be able to stay in business" We pay over the phone, they drive to our house and they leave the food on our doorstep

There's no direct contact, and that's pretty good The remaining risk is fresh droplets on the packaging We unpack, we wash our hands, we eat, we feel pretty safe Hey, fast-food drive-through? Same basic risks, plus it's possible that the virus could pass between you and the cashier, either through the air or on your credit card This is the perfect time to use your precious hand sanitizer, right after you finish the transaction

Certainly, the better practice is to pay online or on the phone whenever possible So that's pretty much what I can tell you right now That's what we know But we all have to keep listening to public health officials as they learn more, we have to not get mad when what they tell us now is different from what they told us before Let's remember: science is an iterative process

The learn more and more, and they tell us Like, Dr Diez points out that study about how long COVID-19 lasts on plastic and such is just the beginning of the research that we need "That's a single study We cannot base policy and recommendations for the public based on a single study under ideal conditions

So, yes, that's the only data we have, but again, my advice for consumers is, if you have the resources, if you have access to sanitizing solutions, if you have access to antimicrobial wipes, use them Now, I'd say that what Dr Diez said there is on the conservative end of the spectrum that I have heard from various public health experts, but who am I to doubt what he has to say? And frankly, if you're someone who is particularly at risk, if you're immunocompromised, if you're older, you probably should go the conservative route But finally, I would also urge you to do whatever you can to support your local restaurants – whatever is safe and affordable for you The restaurant business is really tough in the best of times

Sure, lots of rich people may own restaurants, but very very few people get rich by owning restaurants People generally do it for the love Those places operate on the thinnest of margins, and even successful places are always right on the brink of closing, so you can imagine what a disasters this is for them right now If you love your restaurants, if you want to have any restaurants left in the world after this is all over, please find a way to patronize them in a way that is safe and affordable for you, like people have been doing here in Macon with Satterfield's "We've had people donating meals to other people around town, like, 'Hey, I want to sponsor 150 meals for the sheriff's department, or for first responders

' And so, we've had like three people call in this week and give donations, so that support is amazing" That makes me really happy And if you have the means, that's the kind of thing that you can do to support your local restaurants even if you're a high-risk person who's trying to live in a bubble right now But regardless of your particular situation, just remember: Right now, people are most-likely far more dangerous than food Whatever food you can get via the least amount of human contact, that's the safest food for you

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