New Mexico Department of Agriculture Produce Safety Q & A


Q. How is COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) transmitted?

A. COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) is a virus that is transmitted two ways:

  • Respiratory droplets generated when an infected person exhales, coughs or sneezes.

  • Contact with any surface where droplets containing the virus could land.

COVID-19 appears to persist on surfaces for a period of a few hours to a few days, but the virus’ ability to survive may be influenced by temperature, humidity and the type of surface. Heat, high or low pH, sunlight and common disinfectants (such as chlorine) all facilitate die-off of coronaviruses.

Q. What do the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise?

A. The FDA and the CDC have provided Q&A sections on their websites regarding COVID-19. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses, like norovirus 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.

Q. Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food?

A. Currently there is no indication that the virus can be transmitted through food such as raw produce or food packaging. Furthermore, there is no indication that our food supply is unsafe. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Q. What safety steps should I follow?

A. Remember, it is always critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill – to prevent foodborne illness!

Q. What extra precautions should I take?

A. While food safety regulations and requirements do not change, producers can take extra precautions during a public health crisis. We encourage producers and handlers of food to take additional steps and considerations to minimize potential contamination of the virus. This applies to farms who are involved with harvesting, sorting, packing and holding activities as well as food processors:

  • If employees are not feeling well in any way, they should stay home.

  • Practice social distancing as best as possible during harvest and packing operations.

  • Take extra steps to provide adequate handwashing facilities, soap and hand sanitizing supplies to all workers.

  • Pay extra attention to cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces, tools and/or equipment.

  • Keep high-touch surfaces cleaned and sanitized frequently throughout hours of operation.

  • Keep documentation of the additional cleaning and sanitizing schedules added to the operation. 

  • Encourage continually washing hands!

    • After using the restroom

    • Before and after eating

    • After blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing or touching their faces

    • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste

    • Before putting on gloves