How to Safely Share Baked Goods During Social Distancing
The world feels like a very uncertain place these days, but one thing is for sure: Practically everyone has taken up baking. If recent retail reports are any indication, it's likely that you have stocked up on butter, flour, and yeast. Online searches around bread, no-knead bread, and banana bread have reached all-time highs. Although we've been encouraged to "socially distance" ourselves, sharing baked goods feels like the neighborly thing to do. But can do you do it safely?Whether you are baking loaves of bread, cookies, or brownies, the short answer is yes, there are ways to safely share the delicious treats you've been whipping up with those around you.
COVID-19 is not a food-borne virus, meaning you cannot catch it from food you eat. It's important to remember that, according to the CDC, the USDA, and the FDA, there is no evidence that the coronavirus has been spread through either food or food packaging. The CDC reports that though coronavirus may be spread by touching a surface that is contaminated, that is not the main way the virus is contracted. The way people catch the virus is through prolonged personal contact, so you'll need to practice social distancing even when it comes to the exchange of baked goods.
Good hygiene in the best of times requires cleanliness, and you shouldn't be preparing food for others or sharing food if you are sick. Assuming you aren't sick, and that you are preparing food according to the current CDC guidelines of "clean, separate, cook, and chill," you can safely share your baked goods with loved ones or friends who live outside your home.
You may have heard that the virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours. So, which wrapping is the safest? According to Dr. Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, and Professor Emerita, at New York University, "If hands are clean, or covered with clean plastic gloves, the wrap doesn't matter." Still, she adds that it's important to avoid coughing or sneezing on the wrapper. Dr. John M. Martinez, an urgent care physician with Dignity Health Medical Foundation, points out that the virus is not very heat resistant, so if you're sharing something that is going to be reheated such as a pie, he recommends using glass cookware than can go in the oven. For a temporary cover, he recommends parchment paper or foil, both of which, he says, can be reheated, rather than wax paper or plastic wrap.
In keeping with social distancing guidelines, be sure to stay at least six feet away from others when delivering baked goods. Place food on the porch or at the front door and step back with a nice note—there's no need to actually see the recipient. If you're on the receiving end, bringing baked goods into your home is not complicated. Quarantining and sanitizing food containers is not necessary, or recommended by experts. What is recommended is washing your hands. Dr. Nestle further specifies washing hands, "Before touching food, before wrapping food, before packaging food." Should you rewrap packages you've received? There are no CDC or WHO guidelines that recommend it. Because washing with soapy water kills the virus, washing your hands is still the best thing you can do to stay safe. It may not be exciting, but the best advice is still "Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands!" says Dr. Nestle.