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How safe is your food, the packaging and your home deliveries?

A professor of infectious diseases has suggested people should be more concerned about door handles, lift buttons, petrol pumps and letter boxes.

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(Andy Buchanan/PA)

(Andy Buchanan/PA)

(Andy Buchanan/PA)

Enjoying good food at home is likely to be one of the comforts people cherish during the coronavirus lockdown.

But some may be concerned about the risk of picking up the virus from supermarkets, the packaging their food comes in or through home deliveries.

A professor of infectious diseases told the PA news agency the risk of transmission in this way is low and people should simply employ common sense.

Stephen Baker, from the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge, said viruses – unlike bacteria – do not survive well outside the body.

The NHS website’s coronavirus page says: “It’s very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food.”

The key thing to remember is that the biggest risk of transmission is from person to person, which is why social distancing measures are vital in slowing the spread.

– How much risk is posed by packaging from supermarkets and deliveries?

Prof Baker said the risk is “not zero” when it comes to supermarket and home food deliveries, but it is “relatively minor”.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

He said it is not possible for every piece of food to be decontaminated by a supermarket, but “whilst the risk, I would say, is not zero, it’s pretty, pretty small”.

Prof Baker said bread taken from a supermarket shelf should go into a bag straight away, and recommended washing fresh fruit and vegetables as normal.

“Things that are in packages, I would maintain a degree of common sense with the view that they are unlikely to make anybody sick,” he said, adding that wet wipes or alcohol wipes can be used if there are any concerns.

– Does the virus live on food?

Prof Baker said that while the virus will survive on food as it would do on other surfaces, it then dies off.

He said the virus cannot replicate or produce more copies of itself on food.

The professor said it is difficult to predict how long it would survive on different foods, but added: “There is no reason to think the virus would be able to survive on food longer than any other surface.”

Prof Baker said the risk posed by ingesting food contaminated with small amounts of the virus would be “really low”.

– How should people interact with delivery workers?

Prof Baker said the important thing to remember is social distancing, and suggested that deliveries could be left at people’s doors to cut down on direct contact.

Paying by debit card in advance is sensible as it removes the direct contact of a cash payment.

– Should packaging be disposed of quickly?

Prof Baker said the virus will survive for a period of time on packaging, but not indefinitely.

“I think that we can’t get to the point where we’re disinfecting every item we come in contact with. I would say there isn’t any real necessity to throw away packaging any sooner than you would do normally,” he said.

– Is hand washing still important and what other surfaces should people be concerned about?

Yes. Hand washing is still very important.

Prof Baker said that rather than food packaging being a problem, it is surfaces such as door handles, lift buttons, petrol pumps and letter boxes that are more of a concern.

“If someone sneezes on to their hands and then touches a lift button or touches a door handle, then that’s going to be the bigger problem.

“This is why washing your hands is important because you could come in contact with these things without knowing, because we do these things all the time without thinking.”

PA