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Get the facts about dining out and COVID-19

When dining out, patrons trust that restaurant staff has taken all necessary precautions to ensure a safe experience for customers. Restaurants are bound by strict food handling and cleanliness regulations and undergo periodic inspections to make sure they are in compliance. Many restaurants also post their health grades in visible places for patrons to see. Despite the best health practices and ramped-up sanitation in recent months, some individuals may still have concerns about whether COVID-19 can be transmitted through the handling or consumption of restaurant fare.

To set the record straight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Government of Canada note that the risk of getting COVID-19 from food handled or consumed from restaurants and takeout meals is believed to be very low. Currently, there is no evidence that food is associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Similarly, the risk of infection from food products, food packaging or bags is also thought to be very low. No cases have been identified where infection originated by handling food-related items or shopping bags.

Should anyone experience gastrointestinal distress after eating food, GI viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A or bacteria like E. coli and salmonella are typically to blame. SARS-Co-V-2, which causes COVID-19, is a respiratory virus. It cannot grow on food; it requires a living host like a person or animal to multiply.

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates water treatment plants to ensure that treated water is safe to drink. The COVID-19 virus also has not been found in drinking water.

While COVID-19 is highly unlikely to be spread from consuming or handling food, it's still essential to prioritize hygiene and follow sanitation practices when going to a restaurant.

• Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and food packaging. Wash hands before using your hands to eat handheld foods, like sandwiches or burgers.

• Use common cleaning and disinfection products to wipe down tables and chairs that are shared by the public.

• Consider bringing your own reusable or disposable flatware as an added precaution. Opt for wrapped drinking straws instead of drinking directly from a glass.

• Keep your distance from other people while dining, even outside.

• Follow regulations regarding wearing a non-medical mask or face covering.

There is no evidence that restaurant food can transmit COVID-19. People who want to enjoy a meal at a restaurant can do so with the proper precautions in place.