Will Heat from Cooking Kill Coronavirus?

Get the facts on heat, cooking and coronavirus.

In these uncertain times, many of us in the U.S. are advised to stay home when they can and practice social distancing. Among other things, this means more time at home, which can lead to more time to experiment in the kitchen. It is always important to be sure your food is safe to eat, and especially so now given the coronavirus outbreak. Many people are curious about whether cooking foods at a certain temperature can kill the coronavirus and minimize risk of contracting COVID-19, so we took a deep dive into the evidence to find an answer.

person stirring chopped onions in a pot on the stove
Getty Images/Catherine Falls Commercial

So, can cooking foods kill any potential coronavirus contamination in the food? Short answer: yes. As with many viruses, a sustained temperature of 158°F (70°C) or higher should kill the coronavirus. Most standard cooking methods, like sautéing over medium heat, will get you to this temperature, and even a slow-cooker on a low-heat setting brings food to 209°F by the time it's finished cooking. The FDA has not heard of any reported cases of coronavirus from food, but emphasizes that it's still important to thoroughly wash your hands often and safely handle foods to prevent cross-contamination (between things like raw meat and uncooked veggies), foodborne illness and the coronavirus.

This also means that hot foods ordered as takeout from restaurants should be cooked (and reheated) to a safe temperature. Ideally all restaurants are following safe food-handling practices set by local and state health departments, especially now, and are also making sure that containers, utensils and packages are sanitized. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has also compiled detailed information on how to safely prepare and handle food to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Though heat from cooking kills the coronavirus, there are several myths circulating about heat and the virus. Firstly, hand dryers cannot kill the coronavirus, contrary to popular belief, though washing hands frequently is highly important. Also, the WHO directly states that "taking a hot bath does not prevent the new coronavirus disease" and that attempting to take a bath hot enough to kill the virus would cause burns and do more harm than good. Similar to hot baths, hot liquids like tea will not stave off the coronavirus (and foods cannot fight mucus build up). Additionally, the CDC was clear in stating that it is unclear whether warming weather will have any impact on the rate at which the virus spreads.

There is so much information coming out daily regarding the coronavirus and it's important to stay well-informed. Rest assured that safe food handling and cooking food to recommended temperatures will help prevent the spread of the virus (as well as foodborne illnesses) through food. So, use this extra time at home to get in the kitchen for a fun, safe and nourishing time.

The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change quickly; it's possible that information or data has changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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