Below you will find tips and answers to common questions related to food, nutrition and COVID-19.
There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19, including the variants of concern, being spread through food or food packaging.
- Help pick up things for those self-isolating or people who are more vulnerable.
- Be prepared with food items on hand, or a plan to obtain groceries, should you and your family need to self-isolate.
- Check store hours for times reserved for older adults or people with compromised immune systems.
- Wash or sanitize your hands before and after shopping. Many stores and businesses have hand sanitizer available on the way in.
- Wipe the grocery cart handle with a sanitizing wipe, if available. Many stores are sanitizing their carts and baskets before given them out for customer use.
- Follow all in-store protocols, such as one way aisles and checkout procedures.
- Touch only what you need to touch. Commit to buying the food or products you have touched.
- Be mindful not to touch your face, mouth or eyes while shopping (e.g. licking your finger to open plastic produce bags).
- Practice proper cough etiquette, even when wearing a mask, especially in areas where food is not in packaging, such as the produce or bakery section.
- Use touchless payment when possible.
- Avoid standing around and chatting with friends.
- Be prepared to bag your own groceries if you bring your own bags. Don't place your personal bags directly on the checkout counter.
- Place your grocery bags on the floor at home to unload them, rather than on the counter. Wash reusable bags after each use.
- Wash your hands as soon as you arrive home and again after unloading groceries.
- Use contactless options when available for payment, pick-up or delivery.
- Have items left on your doorstep if you are self-isolating.
- Wash your hands after unloading groceries.
Is there a certain food or product that can boost my immune system?
- There’s no evidence that a particular food, vitamin supplement or herbal preparation can improve the immune system of a healthy individual to the point that they have extra protection from infection.
- A balanced eating pattern, including a variety of nutritious foods, is recommended to keep one’s immune system working well. Eating a variety of nutritious foods regularly will provide the nutrients needed for maintaining a strong and healthy immune system.
- Drink adequate water to maintain hydration.
Do I need to take supplements?
Members of the general public do not need to take nutrient supplements since an adequate amount of nutrients can be obtained through foods. The only exception is for those who are deficient and are unable to obtain the nutrient of concern through food alone.
Here are some things to consider:
- Supplementing more does not necessarily mean better immune health. Imagine a car that has a full tank of gas. Adding more gas will not make the car go any faster or perform better.
- Supplementing can actually be more harmful in some cases and may increase one’s risk for over consumption and toxicity. It can also lead to gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e. diarrhea and nausea) if not used properly.
- Certain groups of people, such as people with heart conditions, older adults, or those who are food insecure, may need supplementation. For example, Health Canada recommends that people over the age of 50 years take a daily Vitamin D supplement of 400 International Units (IU), which is equivalent to 10 micrograms (mcg).
- Supplementation should always be supervised by a qualified health care professional.
To date, there is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 virus is transferred through food. The main method of transmission is through the respiratory tract, not the digestive tract.
Practicing basic food safety is sufficient to reduce the risk of exposure to pathogens, including COVID-19. This includes:
- Washing hands and sanitizing counters after putting away groceries.
- Thoroughly washing all fresh produce under fresh, cool, running water.
- Properly storing foods to decrease risk of cross-contamination and spoilage.
- Cooking foods to the proper temperatures to kill any pathogens.
Washing foods with vinegar, soap or bleach is not needed, nor is it recommended. Some foods have porous surfaces and washing with soap or bleach can lead to absorption of chemicals that can be dangerous if eaten. Washing with warm or hot water can cause fresh produce to wilt, become soggy or spoil faster.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is not stable at cooking temperatures. Cooking and reheating food to recommended internal temperatures for beef, poultry, pork, etc. should inactivate the virus. Use a thermometer to ensure food has reached the proper temperature. Viruses are generally more stable at refrigeration temperatures; therefore, proper food handling, hand hygiene and environmental cleaning practices are important to follow.
Washing Food Packaging
The most effective way to stop potential contaminants that may be on food packaging from entering your body is to wash your hands prior to handling food and to practice proper food safety.
Remember that any cleaners or sanitizers used in the kitchen or on food preparation areas or utensils, should be food safe. Disinfectants can leave residues that are unsafe for consumption. Check product labels to ensure your cleaning/ sanitizing products are food safe.