Virginia Tech researchers are studying how long COVID-19 survives on these food surfaces.
Dr. Andrea Bertke a virologist and associate professor, told nbc12.com: “For the average consumer this means if you go into the grocery store, and you pick up a tomato if someone else picked up that tomato or that tomato contaminated transport or on the farm—is that tomato still a risk.”
With a two-year, $1 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the research team will address such topics as how to ensure that someone won’t contract SARS-CoV-2 from handling packaging and how to properly sanitize at all levels of food distribution and production. Their project looks at food from the farm to the table, and the risk of the virus can have along the way.
Researchers want to understand how the virus survives under different conditions on different materials before it gets to the consumer. To find out, they plan to use a virus that looks and acts like COVID-19.
“It can’t cause any form of disease. It can’t infect people. And so, we are growing this up to use a surrogate as an alternate so we can test some of these process that may be a little messy when you’re looking at food residue but in a much safer way,” said Dr. Bertke. Researchers also hope to learn which sanitizing methods will be helpful to kill the virus on its way to your home.