We’ve been living with the pandemic for over a year, and when it comes to things like grocery shopping and eating out, there has been considerable worry and confusion. Is it safe? Is it risky? Can COVID-19 be spread through food? Joining me on this week’s show is Dr. Ben Chapman, PhD from North Carolina State University with the latest on food safety and COVID-19. He answers your questions and sheds light on everything from COVID-19 and grocery cart handles to new ways the meat industry is keeping its workers and our food safe to eat.
Dr. Ben Chapman, PhD is a professor and Food Safety Extension Specialist at NC State University. He studies pathogens and public health with the goal of less foodborne illness. He has a BS in Molecular Biology and Genetics and a Master’s and PhD in Plant Agriculture. Ben’s team at NC State is involved in a cool project called FoodCoVNET, which provides evidence-based information designed to alleviate fears about the food supply and community spread of the virus.
“We found that washing meat and poultry before prepping only increases the risk of foodborne illness, and it doesn’t decrease the risk.”
– Ben Chapman, PhD
Here’s a super helpful graphic explaining COVID-19, transmission, and food safety. Consider it your one-stop shop … and feel free to share it with others.
- Get to know Ben, his work, and his family: Originally from Toronto, Ben has been at NC State University for 13 years; he lives in Raleigh, NC, with his two kids and wife
- Ben’s research and work on how people prepare food and the link to food safety
- Ben’s podcasts, Food Safety Talk and Risky or Not
- The website, FoodCoVNET, which is a one-stop-shop for information and answers to our questions about food and COVID
- The basics of mucous, spit, virus transmission, and the dangers of inhaling “shared air”
- How norovirus and salmonella differ from COVID in the ways they are transmitted and contracted
- Why respiratory viruses like the common cold, influenza, and others don’t usually cause infection through food consumption
- If you can catch the common cold by touching a germ-ridden shopping cart, why can’t you catch COVID by touching something?
- Are we over-sanitizing?
- If a waitress or kitchen staff coughs on your plate and food and then hands it to you, can you get sick?
- Do we need to wipe down our groceries before we bring them into our home?
- Does COVID-19 behave like salmonella and other food pathogens?
- Is our continual sanitizing just “hygiene theater,” and will the sanitizing of public spaces continue?
- How much of a risk is it to have food made by others at a group gathering?
- Are the new mutations able to spread more easily by contact instead of air? Will the new variants make it safe to get takeout?
- Is there any difference between eating outdoors and indoors when dining out? Once we’re all vaccinated, will it be safer to eat indoors again?
- What is happening in meat processing plants to keep employees and the food safe?
- Final words on food safety and COVID: “The biggest risk in this pandemic is being around other people and shared air. These are the things that we know lead to illnesses and problems around the world. The normal everyday food safety guidelines like cleaning and sanitizing after food handling and keeping our hands clean will go a long way in reducing our risk even further.”
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