COVID pandemic can lead to better food security, if you get the right information

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The COVID-19 pandemic has led many people to adopt better handwashing and sanitation practices in their homes to stop the spread of the virus. A team of food scientists led by Purdue University believes this offers an opportunity to thwart foodborne illness.

There is no evidence that the SARS-Co-V-2 virus is spread through food, said Yaohua “Betty” Feng, Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Sciences at Purdue. Yet the practices that health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocate to stop the spread of the virus are the same that can eliminate the risks associated with salmonella, E.coli, Listeria and other agents. foodborne pathogens.

“If you turn to the CDC, they will tell you to wash your hands for 20 seconds and clean the surfaces with soap and water and sanitize them,” Feng said. “These are important practices in stopping the spread of COVID and would serve us well if people pursued them after the pandemic is over. “

The key, Feng said, is to make sure the information you get is correct, and that’s not always the case. The team analyzed 85 YouTube videos – from the United States and Canada, in English and with 500 or more views – that promote food safety as part of the COVID-19 risk mitigation strategy. Feng and Wenqing (Wennie) Xu, an assistant professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences at Louisiana State University AgCenter, reported in the Food Protection Journal that many videos, even citing specific sources like the CDC, did not always present the correct information to the public.

About 69% of the videos featured handwashing procedures, but in only 41% of the videos did the facilitators use soap. Less than a third mentioned hand sanitizer. Of those who washed the products, 16% used soap and 12% used other chemical cleaners, which do not meet CDC guidelines to use only water. Soaps and cleansers increase the risk of causing diarrhea if they are not rinsed off properly.

CDC guidelines recommend by following four simple steps to reduce the risk of food poisoning – clean, separate, cook and refrigerate:

  • Clean: wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and running water before, during and after preparing food and before eating; wash utensils, cutting boards and counters in hot soapy water; and rinse the raw fruits and vegetables under running water.
  • Separated: Use separate cutting boards for raw meats, poultry, and seafood, and keep these raw foods separate from other ready-to-eat foods while shopping and in the refrigerator.
  • Cook: Make sure all food is cooked to the right temperature, which varies between 145 degrees and 165 degrees depending on the type of protein.
  • Refrigerate: place perishable foods in a refrigerator set to 40 degrees or less within two hours; and defrost food in cold water, in the refrigerator or in the microwave, but never alone on the counter.

Feng said that while many YouTube videos offer correct information, it is important for viewers to check the sources cited and make sure they are following the appropriate recommendations.

“Although COVID does not appear to be spread through food, many people take precautions with their food to protect themselves from this possibility. These actions will also protect them from common foodborne pathogens, ”said Feng. “I hope people get into the habit of washing their hands and cleaning surfaces and keeping them in shape. I encourage anyone who wants to protect themselves from these pathogens to do their homework, get accurate information, and follow best practices.

“I encourage social media influencers to be more specific and use scientific information when crafting public health messages for audiences who trust and follow their recommendations.”

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture partially supported Feng’s work.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer; 765-532-0233; [email protected]

Source: Yaohua “Betty” Feng; 765-494-0331; [email protected]


Exploring Food Safety Messages in the Age of COVID-19: Analyzing YouTube Video Content

Merlyn Thomas, Peyton Haynes, Juan Archila, Mai Nguyen, Wenqing Xu, Yaohua Feng

Although SARS-CoV-2 is not a proven foodborne pathogen, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the food system on alert. Food security is identified as an important pillar to alleviate the crisis. Therefore, it is more important than ever to understand how popular media are used as the essential disseminator of food safety and health information for public use. YouTube deserves special attention as one of the busiest websites on the internet, especially since it has been blamed for disseminating misleading or unreliable information during the pandemic that contradicts validated information. This study assesses food safety information and practices disseminated on YouTube during the COVID-19 pandemic and their alignment with recommendations from government agencies. A search for YouTube videos was performed using the keywords “Food and COVID-19”, “Food Safety and COVID-19” and “Grocery and COVID-19”. After applying a series of inclusive and exclusive criteria, a total of 85 different videos from the United States and Canada were evaluated. More than half (59%) of the videos showcased hand washing procedures, less than a third (22%) showed kitchen sanitization, and most (69%) showed concerns about ‘take out’ practices. Or “grocery store”. Multiple and different product washing procedures were also shown throughout the videos. Food was not considered dangerous by 33% of the videos, but 20% mentioned that food packaging is potentially dangerous. Most of the videos cited government agencies and had a host or guest who was a medical professional or teacher / expert. Of all quotes, three videos did not align with government agency guidelines or cited information; two were presented by a healthcare professional. These results demonstrate the need to develop educational interventions that increase awareness among YouTube video hosts and guests of the use of social media as a tool for disseminating food safety and the need to provide reliable sources.

Agricultural communications: 765-494-8415;

Maureen Manier, Head of Department, [email protected]

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