COVID-19: Is it safe to gift homemade baked goods during the holidays?

TORONTO —
Like many holiday traditions, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the etiquette surrounding sharing homemade food and baked goods this year.

A box of homemade cookies, once a thoughtful and low-cost alternative to gift giving, has become a bit of a paradox amid the second wave of the pandemic, leaving many asking whether it’s still safe to accept treats from someone outside of your immediate family or cohort.

Despite evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 isn’t easily spread through food, Ebrahim Noroozi, food scientist and occupational health and safety specialist at McGill University, suggests you may want to skip it.

“Food is not the medium for transporting COVID. It’s very, very rare that you could say COVID transferred to food,” Noroozi told CTVNews.ca by phone Saturday.

“When it’s a food processing establishment or restaurant, they’re following government regulations regarding the public health mandates for manufacturing, catering, serving and selling food.”

But when it comes to baking, packaging, and delivering food yourself, Noroozi says you must first consider a few things.

“Let me put it this way, if you want to send something to somebody I think the first thing is to ask them if they would like to have [the gift],” he said. “If they do accept, I think you’re accepting the responsibility to deliver them in sanitary condition.”

Noroozi notes that research has shown no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted through the food chain, particularly on meat and chicken in processing plants. But public health officials have warned that coronavirus strains are capable of living at low and freezing temperatures and on food packaging.

In other words, it’s more the packaging and delivering of said holiday treats that you have to be careful about.

“If people really want to accept such a thing then you can put your cookies in a clean, sanitized container left outside of the home to following social distancing guidelines” he said.

“But those who really want to fully avoid every risk shouldn’t accept homemade treats.”

Good handwashing and sanitization should be practiced when handling any food items and their packaging.​  

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