by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Coronavirus

Mar 27 2020

Every crisis has heroes: here’s ours

Thanks to Dr. Leon Axel for his cartoons, especially this one.

Mar 25 2020

Is it safe to eat produce from farmers markets?  Yes and please do.

Not many restaurants will be able to survive Coronavirus, and this is a personal, social, and national tragedy.

I’m worried about farmers’ markets too.

Researchers say that the cost of Coronavirus to farm-to-consumer programs could go well into the billions.  I believe it.

Now is the time to support your local farmers.

California has ruled farmers’ markets essential to local economies.

Now is the time to do what you can to keep them open and viable, even with the need for social distancing.  Use home delivery or curbside pick up if you have to.

Even more, join the Farmers Market Coalition campaign for congressional support.

Is farmers’ market produce safe to eat?  Yes (with some caveats), as I discussed on Monday.

Mar 24 2020

Coronavirus and food: this week’s update

From the New York Times

Does food transmit Coronavirus?  

Keeping up Coronoavirus  

How to survive working at home (watch out for junk food) 

How to take action

Advice for the food industry

  • US lays out new COVID-19 guidelines for food industry  The Trump Administration released a set of coronavirus guidelines for all Americans, with special provisions for critical infrastructure industries like food and beverage. Brands have been adapting this week to the new reality, while keeping employee safety a top priority…. Read more

What’s happening with supermarkets and supply chains?

What to avoid: dubious schemes for immune boosting

Who profits from this?

What else?

Mar 23 2020

Is it safe to eat fresh produce? Yes (with caveats)

I’ve been getting many requests from friends to weigh in on what’s safe to eat.

  • Is it safe to eat fresh produce from supermarkets?
  • Is it safe to eat fresh produce in bags or plastic packs?
  • Is it safe to eat fresh produce from farmers’ markets? [and see post this coming Wednesday]
  • Is it safe to eat take-out?
  • Is it safe to eat home-delivered meals?

To answer these questions, I did a lot of reading and also consulted my guru for such matters and longstanding colleague, Dr. Bobby Baron, Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean Graduate and Continuing Medical Education at UCSF.

Basically, the answer to all these questions is yes.  To date, there is no evidence of Cornonavirus transmission through food.

Transmission risk is greatest from infected people.  Hence: social distance and hand washing when dealing with food and deliveries of packages.

Coronavirus is a respiratory virus, mostly.  Contamination through food is theoretically possible, but hasn’t happened yet far as we know.

To be 100 percent safe while eating fresh produce

Do what you would do in countries without safe water supplies—follow the P rules and only eat foods that are:

  • Piping hot (hot temperatures destroy viruses and other microorganisms)
  • Peeled (wash hands before and after)
  • Purified (cooked and not recontaminated)
  • Packaged (industrially packed, frozen, or dried)

As always, wash hands.

If you have fresh produce, wash it.  When in doubt, cook it.

Food safety resources for Coronavirus

  • CDC’s advice:  “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.”
  • FDA’s advice: “Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.
  • The European Food Safety Authority’s advice:  “Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), show that transmission through food consumption did not occur.”
  • The Irish food safety authority’s advice:  “Coronaviruses need a host (animal or human) to grow in and cannot grow in food. Thorough cooking is expected to kill the virus.”
  • Serious Eats comprehensive guide to food safety.  This goes into the safety issues in greater detail and with more explanation.

Data on Coronavirus survival on surfaces

This week’s blog is devoted to Coronavirus: There’s no point in my talking about anything else

  • Tomorrow: an update
  • Wednesday: focus on farmers’ markets
  • Thursday: pets
  • Friday: The only food-and-Coronavirus cartoon I can find

My mantra: Stay safe, stay healthy, stay sane.  Courage!

Mar 12 2020

What’s up with pets and pet food?

It’s bad enough to have to worry about avoiding getting sick from Coronavirus, but now we have to worry about making our pets sick too.

My pet food mantra: more research needed!

Mar 11 2020

Coronavirus and food: the latest

Food connects to everything, even to Covid-19.  Here’s how.

The New York Times says “Open Windows. Don’t Share Food.”  It reports the latest advice from Vice President Pence’s office, summarized in a flyer.  The not-sharing-food advice refers to schools.

The Los Angeles Times asked for a comment of sharing food.  Here’s what I told the reporter (the article quotes some of this):

Depends on how paranoid you are.  So far, there is no evidence that Coronavirus can be transmitted by food but I suppose it is theoretically possible.  Someone who has the virus but doesn’t show symptoms could cough or sneeze or handle raw foods.  If you handle the foods before cooking them, you could pick up the virus.

Cooking should kill the virus (don’t re-use the bag the foods came in).  Salad greens should always be washed, even prewashed, even salads that come pre-bagged.

As for salad bars: they usually have glass or plastic screens and long handled spoons.  Again, contamination is possible but unlikely.  If such things worry you, the remedy is easy: cook the food and eat it while it’s hot.

Some of the CDC’s advice about Coronavirus relates to food.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.

CDC’s advice about preparedness says what to do if you are ill.  Basically, stay home.

  • Consider ways of getting food brought to your house through family, social, or commercial networks
  • Monitor food and other medical supplies (oxygen, incontinence, dialysis, wound care) needed and create a back-up plan.
  • Stock up on non-perishable food items to have on hand in your home to minimize trips to stores.

General information about Coronavirus also is available from the World Health Organization.  It doesn’t say anything about sharing food but recommends standard hygiene procedures for food handling and preparation—wash hands, cook meat thoroughly, and avoid cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods (see WHO website).

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says there is no evidence that that food is a source or transmission route for Coronavirus.

  • EFSA’s chief scientist, Marta Hugas, said: “Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.”

The FDA has issued warnings to individuals and companies making unsupported claims for Covid-19 cures, one of them to the TV evangelist Jim Bakker (he hawks supplements of colloidal silver).  Warning letters went to the Jim Bakker Show, as well as Vital SilverQuinessence Aromatherapy Ltd.Xephyr, LLC doing business as N-ErgeticsGuruNanda, LLCVivify Holistic ClinicHerbal Amy LLC.

Finally, a survey finds that one-third of shoppers in the U.K. are stockpiling food in preparation for siege by Coronavirus.

Enjoy your meals while all this is going on!

Mar 3 2020

The food politics of Coronavirus

Food politics connects to everything and Coronoavirus is no exception.  I’ve been collecting items.

For starters,  Coca-Cola gets its artificial sweeteners from China.  Oops.  Its supply chain is now disrupted.

Production and exports have been delayed for Coke’s suppliers of sugar alternatives used in the company’s diet and zero-sugar drinks, Coca-Cola disclosed Monday as part of its annual report.

“We have initiated contingency supply plans and do not foresee a short-term impact due to these delays…However, we may see tighter supplies of some of these ingredients in the longer term should production or export operations in China deteriorate.”

The primary artificial sweeteners Coca-Cola (KO) uses in its products include aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, saccharin, cyclamate and steviol gylcosides.

In its annual report, Coca-Cola indicated that it considered sucralose a “critical raw material” sourced from suppliers in the US and China. Splenda, a sucralose product used in Diet Coke with Splenda, is made in the US and not sourced from China.

This worries you?  Join the hoarders.  Some people are trying to make sure they have a 14-day supply of food in case they get quarantined.  This situation has gotten so out of hand that stores are running out of food.

The FDA wants everyone to calm down.  It has a web page on what’s happening with supply chains.  Most of this is about the supply of pharmaceuticals made in China, but here’s what it says about food:

We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.

It’s hard to calm down if the situation affects you.  The organizers of Food Expo West, the natural products show scheduled for Anaheim, says COVID-19 fears could cut Expo West attendance by as much as 60% (the article links to official and unofficial lists of companies that have pulled out).

But every crisis has winners as well as losers.  The possible winners here?  Food delivery companies (as long as they can get supplies).

Stay tuned.

Update 3/3: Expo West has been postponed.