Food safety amid coronavirus

May 6, 2020

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Many are choosing to go grocery shopping over ordering in food or pick-up options. Supermarkets admit small numbers of people inside at a time to ensure social distancing between shoppers. In NYS, it is now required by law to wear a face mask in public.

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the NY area and people remain isolated from their communities, many are apprehensive about venturing to supermarkets to stock up on food. Ordering takeout, curbside pickup or food to be delivered right to the doorstep are popular alternatives during this time; however, many are still wondering if this “safer option” is truly a better option.

Associate Professor and Director of Doctoral Studies at NYU School of Global Public Health Dr. Niyati Parekh spoke confidently that the main methods of transmission of coronavirus are not through food or food packaging.

Parekh said,  “It is very clear that the pandemic is caused by touch, by being in proximity, or by large droplets that drop to the ground. It’s possible but unlikely that infection caused by the droplets will settle down on a cardboard box, they will survive for a few hours and infect the masses. It is not a major concern. We also know that this virus is not airborne and therefore we have some level of normalcy in our routines.”

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) reaffirmed this statement on their website. 

“There is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.” It continued, “Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like coronavirus and Hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.”

While there are hopes of a vaccine approaching and the curve continuing to flatten, the long-term ramifications of the virus are seemingly less positive. Parekh believes that if current nutritional trends continue, there could be a rise in non-communicable diseases.

Parekh said, “Most people are holding and stockpiling shelf-stable foods. We are anticipating that if these behaviors continue, people will be consuming more ultra-processed foods that are higher in salt, sugar and fats.”

Sophomore Briana Diaz echoed this sentiment. 

Long periods of ultra processed food consumption have long term health impacts such as cardiovascular dissectors or hypertension – all of these are risk factors that eventually influence non communicable diseases.”

— Dr. Niyati Parekh

Diaz said, “Whenever my dad goes grocery shopping, he tries to stock up on food as much as possible. He buys lots of pasta, shelf-stable foods and frozen foods. We haven’t gone food shopping in two weeks.”

However, Parekh explained how this is not entirely related to choice; people have to consume what is available and what they can afford. 

Parekh continued, “Long periods of ultra processed food consumption have long term health impacts such as cardiovascular dissectors or hypertension – all of these are risk factors that eventually influence non communicable diseases.

In addition, Parekh believes the number of people without access to food will increase drastically. 

With over 22 million people who applied for unemployment over the last few weeks, in general there is going to be much higher rates of food insecurity. People of color are disproportionately at risk. Globally, the rates of hunger and malnutrition will rise steeply. ”stated Parekh.

 

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