It is safe to say that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 impacted majority of the world population, and has significantly changed the way we live. People around the globe are forced to act quickly as they gain new facts and government restrictions, and are compelled to make unplanned decisions. How to safely source sufficient amount of food and how to know if the food is safe to eat has become even bigger challenge than ever for consumers around the world. They are wondering: ”Where can I source a good quality product when my movement is restricted? Is this product safe for my family and me? Can the coronavirus be spread through food? Should I cook differently to kill the potential virus in my groceries?”
On the other hand, companies were forced to roll out mandatory work-from-home policies so home office combined with quarantine has become the new normal. While many of us can afford to stay at home, those producing our food can’t – they are more essential than ever. However, sealed borders across the world, quarantines and closed markets have caused disruptions in the food supply chains and a lot of farmers may be forced to destroy a big part of their production because of the impossibility to place their products on the market. Their yearlong hard work is now, in the best-case scenario, jeopardized.
At the same time, more than a third of the global population is under lockdown and is trying to stockpile in every possible way.
Living in these uncertain and contradictory times when each and every one of us should adopt and master new ways of living, it becomes obvious that the new strategies must be created and adopted by both producers and consumers in order to make it through. However, there seems to be a break in the clouds. Technology is continuously changing the world and our individual lives, and is stepping in once again in order to solve the problem we are facing.
As J.F. Kennedy once said, now more than ever before, humanity possesses the resources, technology and knowledge to promote development and to feed all people.
ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING IS BLOOMING
The fear of contagion is causing consumers to avoid places like supermarkets and other places where people typically congregate. Farmer’s markets around the world are closed. Officials are asking people to only go out when absolutely needed. A question that certainly has risen in every consumer’s mind was: How can I supply my household and prevent from running out of essentials?
While online shopping for books, clothes, and electronics has become normal in our everyday life, most customers still prefer to purchase their meat, fruits and vegetables at the store. As Business Insider states, only 10% of US consumers regularly shop online for groceries, while Eurostat conducted research that shows that more than 73% of people still prefer to do every type of shopping in person.
However, new circumstances have led to the shift in consumer behaviors, and online grocery shopping is exploding since now it is a place to go. Online shopping seems to be a great solution for both consumers and producers, especially farmers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to sell their products such as fresh vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy.
Besides providing a digital market place to the farmers, this shift will allow fast and innovative producers to stand out with their products. Moreover, innovations such as Traceability report, will become increasingly important as they help farmers to showcase and share production information with their consumers while giving insight to the consumers into all the aspects of the food they buy. Transparent certification of the food producers, hygiene standards as well as good quality, organic and sustainable food, are now the requirements that are more emphasized than ever. The shift which is happening during this pandemic may reshape the supermarket industry as we know it by helping little producers to make the public familiar with the quality of their products. Despite numerous challenges, there is a silver lining for consumers as well – new circumstances of online grocery shopping inevitably will lead to the bigger control of the food we consume. Which transfer us to the second most asked question:
IS THE FOOD WE EAT REALLY SAFE?
In addition to worrying about food sufficiency, consumers are concerned about whether they can get the virus by touching or consuming the food they’re buying. Based on the interview with Donald Schaffner, Ph.D., a distinguished professor in the department of food science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., there is currently no evidence that the disease is transmitted by food. In accordance with his opinion, the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the World Health Organization also point out that food is not known to be a route of transmission of the virus.
At this point in time, the highest risk of COVID-19 spread is through human-to-human transmission.
HOW TO TREAT FOOD?
Having in mind that the coronavirus is a respiratory virus, not a digestive or the gastrointestinal one, there should be no difference in handling food now and before the coronavirus. Basically, it all comes down to general good food safety habits. Handwashing remains one of the best protective measures to avoid spreading or contracting the virus, so as always, it is highly recommended to wash your hands while preparing food—and during if you are handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs. As emphasized by GLOBALG.A.P, the use of gloves is not necessarily safer and should comply with the policies already set for glove usage. Remember to wash fruits and vegetables in water before consummation in any way, shape or form.
As stated by the GLOBALG.A.P in the Answers to Common Questions About Coronavirus and the Food You Eat, coronavirus doesn’t multiply on food, but it is recommended to keep raw meat separate from other foods, using separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables, and using a food thermometer to ensure safe cooking temperatures. You should also refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers promptly and be sure to cook the food you eat, just as you always do.
To conclude, it seems that technology will once again help to overcome the hardship we are facing and bring food to our tables. Digital market places are proving to be the solution for the current problem of closed local markets and quarantined citizens all around the world, whilst washing the food will keep it safe for consumption.
We at Agrivi are grateful to all our farmers for their commitment, and very proud to work in the agriculture sector, as well as to have the chance to be an important link between producers and consumers in these difficult times.
THE ONLINE GROCERY REPORT - Business Insider
E-COMMERCE STATISTICS FOR INDIVIDUALS - European Commission
ANSWERS TO COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS AND THE FOOD YOU EAT – Consumer Reports
HOW CAN PRODUCERS ADDRESS COVID-19? – GLOBALG.A.P.