Skip to main content

Food safety

COVID-19 doesn't appear to be transmitted by eating food contaminated with the virus, however, it is important to wash your hands before preparing or eating food.

At the grocery store

The way we purchase groceries has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stores selling food are an essential service. Physical distancing and good hygienic practices must be in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among customers. Customers can protect themselves and others by following these practices when shopping:
  • Do not shop if you are ill.
  • Shop alone to limit COVID-19 exposures to other family members.
  • Keep a 2 metre distance from other customers while waiting in line outside the store and while shopping inside the store
  • Be quick - limit time in the store only to selecting your items and paying for your purchases
  • Respect designated store hours for the elderly, immunocompromised or disabled people, and for hospital workers and first responders
  • Follow store policies and follow signs instructing you how to move through-out the store
  • Touch only the fresh fruits and vegetables that you plan to purchase
  • Take only the groceries that you need
  • Wash your reusable grocery bags or avoid using them for now. 
  • Pack your groceries into your bags yourself if you are able. 
  • Use tap purchase to avoid handling cash
  • Use alcohol based hand rubs in the store for your hands and disinfectant wipes on grocery store cart handles
  • Wash your hands after shopping and after putting away groceries

At the restaurant

Restaurants, cafes and pubs are open for services and have established physical distancing and enhanced hygienic practices to protect their customers from illness. Recommendations for restaurants, cafes and pubs can be found on the BC Restaurant Association  and WorkSafe web-sites. Patrons should practice physical distancing and good hygiene habits when dining in these establishments to protect themselves, other patrons, servers and staff. Below is what patrons should expect and adhere to:
  • Do not go out to a restaurant, cafe or pub if you are ill.
  • Make reservations if requested and provide contact information for one member of the dining group. This information is a PHO requirement.
  • Follow all instructions provided and maintain a 2 metre distance from other patrons not in your group
    • when waiting in line outside,
    • when inside, and 
    • when visiting washroom facilities.
  • Servers are not required to wear masks, gloves and aprons but may choose to wear them to provide added assurance to their customers. 
  • When providing foods and beverage service to customers there are several options for servers to physically distance from their customers. This new model of service may require you to help distribute foods and beverages at the table to others in your party. Here’s what to expect when you dine-in at restaurants, pubs and cafes. Servers may be:
    • Placing meals, drinks, utensils, jugs of water, napkins and other items at the edge of the table and asking customers to serve themselves,
    • Leaving menus on the table to avoid handing them out, or providing digital or sign-board menus for customers
    • Standing away from the table while taking orders and keeping an arms length away from the table and patrons
    • Not touching coffee cups while refilling, or providing insulated carafes for customers to refill themselves
  • Service and bussing of tables may occur with service disks so that customers can let servers know when they need assistance. 
  • When the meal is over, customers can assist physical distancing by moving used dishes to the ends of tables. Kitchen staff may come to remove plates to limit traffic in and out of dishwashing areas. 
Patrons should understand that when servers do interact with customers during meal and beverage services there is always some risk to themselves as well as to the server and other staff. Kindness, patience and respect are needed by everyone.

Common questions at home

Does cooking kill the COVID-19 virus?

Normal cooking temperatures for foods will kill COVID-19 and other microbes in food. As with other microbes our advice is to always use a thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the food has reached 74°C.

Does the COVID-19 virus grow on food? Should I be concerned about storing foods in my cupboard, fridge, or freezer?

COVID-19 is a virus and does not grow. It may survive in foods and on surfaces for a few hours to a few days before it dies off. However, it is not believed that the virus is transmitted by eating contaminated food. The virus is transmitted by droplets spread from a sick person. If the COVID-19 virus is on the surface of a food and stored in a cupboard, fridge, or freezer, there is no evidence that it can grow or multiply further. 

We do not know if the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive refrigerator or freezer temperatures. Similar coronaviruses have been shown to survive in refrigerators and freezers for weeks and it is likely the new virus can also persist in cold environments. 

The virus is not believed to be transmitted by eating food because it is destroyed during digestion by the acids in your stomach. The greater risk is getting the virus on your hands and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. There are no special precautions needed when storing food, but we recommend washing your hands after putting away food you have purchased and before preparing food. 

Can the COVID-19 virus be passed on by eating or touching ready to eat foods made by others?

There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through food made by infected people. COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. There is a theoretical risk that a person infected with COVID-19 could spread the virus by sneezing on food or by directly touching food with their hands. However, there have been no cases reported of such transmission with COVID-19. To be safe, if you are sick with COVID-19, do not prepare or handle food for others.

Use good hygiene practices when handling food. Avoid bare hand contact. For example, use utensils, deli napkins, or dispensing equipment to handle food. We recommend frequent hand washing with plain soap and water to reduce risk of transmission if you are preparing foods.

When handling foods at home, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water:
  • Before, during and after preparing foods,
  • After handling any raw foods,
  • Before eating foods, 
  • After using the washroom,
  • After touching pets,
  • After changing diapers, and
  • After wiping runny noses or any hand contact with your face or your child’s face.
Can COVID-19 be passed on by eating or touching raw fruits and vegetables?

There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through eating or touching raw fruits or vegetables. When preparing fresh fruits and vegetables, wash or scrub them under cold, running, potable tap water prior to consumption. 
Prevent cross contamination by 
  • keeping fruits and vegetables separate from raw foods, and
  • at the grocery store, only handle (touch) the fresh fruits and vegetables that you plan to buy (as a courtesy to other customers) and to limit any hand transfer of germs
SOURCE: Food safety ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Centre for Disease Control. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2020 Provincial Health Services Authority.