The FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response said that "we don’t believe that food packaging is a common route of transmission’ of COVID-19" during a virtual press briefing on April 2nd. America has plenty of safe food and there’s no reason to stockpile, federal and state government officials added.
“We must continue to reassure the public that people should not hoard food,” said Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response for the U.S Food and Drug Administration. “Buy a week or two of groceries and leave some for others. Our nation’s overall food safety net remains strong."
The FDA and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture both held virtual press briefings Thursday to discuss America’s food supply and food safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
Federal and state officials both said that there is no evidence that COVID-19, a respiratory illness, is spread through food.
Theoretically, an infected person in a supermarket could contaminate food by handling it but the risk from that is low, Yiannas said.
Food can sit for a days or even weeks on supermarket shelves and in bins.
“We don’t believe the virus survives for long on food packaging,” Yiannas said, “We think that the risk is slow. We don’t believe that food packaging is a common route of transmission."
Sheri Morris, Pennsylvania’s assistant director for food safety, said state food inspections have not found a lot of direct violations of social distancing or sanitation rules. Most workers are using gloves, washing hands and limiting their handling of food. They are not as a rule wearing masks, Morris said, because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not made that recommendation.
Demand for food is continuing to create issues at supermarkets. The stockpiling began as COVID-19 first started to spread in Pennsylvania. Shoppers started to purchase large quantities of items such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and cleaning products.
That panic buying became worse after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the closure of non-essential businesses across the state to help slow the spread of the virus. Even though supermarkets and drug stores continued to remain open (as they are considered “essential” businesses,) shoppers flocked to stores buying up non-perishable items such canned beans and soups, eggs, ground meats, dairy and more.
On top of the panic buying, we are all eating almost exclusively at home, creating a situation where we are buying more food from supermarkets to prepare ourselves. The unprecedented surge in demand for food is why some supermarket shelves are still bare, not that there is a lack of supply, Yiannas said.
“It’s an artificial rush of demand,” Yiannas said. “It’s like having seven Thanksgiving weekends all at once.”