Can you get COVID-19 from food containers or wrapping?

Can you get COVID-19 from food containers or wrapping?

Coronavirus is mainly spread person to person through close contact or respiratory droplets, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It also may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. That’s why it’s so important to avoid touching your face.

So how long does the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic survive on different surfaces, such as the containers and wrapping that your food is packaged in?

Last month, researchers published a preliminary study in The New England Journal of Medicine. They looked at how long the new coronavirus lives on various surfaces. Here’s what they found.

  • No viable coronavirus was detected after:
    • 24 hours on cardboard
    • 72 hours on plastic
    • 72 hours on stainless steel

And the virus appears to die off quickly on these surfaces. In the study, the scientists looked at the half-life of the virus, which is the time it takes for half of it to decay. Results showed:

  • The half-life of the coronavirus was:
    • About 3 hours on cardboard (although there was wider variation)
    • 6 hours on stainless steel
    • 8 hours on plastic

Some experts feel there’s a low risk of the virus being on containers or wrapping, and even if it were it would likely not be in high enough numbers to cause an infection. Also, according to the FDA, there is currently no evidence of food packaging associated with transmission of COVID-19.

“It’s always a good idea to follow proper hygiene any time after grocery shopping,” says Dr. Adrienne Maurer at Aurora Health Center in Germantown, WI. “Being extra diligent during these uncertain times is especially important to keep you and your family safe.”

Here are some tips she recommends:

  • After grocery shopping:
    • Wash your hands for 20 seconds as soon as you get home.
    • To be extra cautious as you unpack the groceries, wipe them down with cleaning wipes or bleach water:
      • Use 1 part bleach to 9 parts water, for example 1/4 cup bleach and 2¼ cups of water. Carefully pour the bleach into the spray bottle first, then add the water to prevent the bleach from splashing on you.
    • After everything is put away, clean the counters with soap or the bleach water.
    • Wash your hands again for 20 seconds.
  • When picking up or getting delivered food:
    • Wash your hands for 20 seconds after removing the packaging and before eating your food.

Concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing fever, cough or shortness of breath? Use this online symptom checker or call 866-443-2584.

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One Comment

  1. What about wearing gloves while shopping? I see a lot of people touching everything from food to personal items. I am concerned about cross contamination. From what I have read, the virus can stick to the latex in the glove better than it skin.

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About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.