Department of Health Encourages Food Safety, COVID-19 Precautions for Upcoming Holidays

Family and friends happy moments in video conference at homeHARRISBURG, Pa. – Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine urged Pennsylvanians to take COVID-19 and food safety precautions as they plan household celebrations during the upcoming holidays.

“We know that one of the best parts of the holiday season is spending time with those we love, but this year, we must rethink what that looks like,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “This holiday season, choose to celebrate with the people in your household and virtually connect with your loved ones. It is essential that we all follow the orders in place and do all we can to limit the spread of COVID-19 to protect our health system and our hospitals.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping anyone who is not preparing food out of the kitchen for COVID-19 and food safety reasons. Use single-use options like salad dressing and condiment packets. If you must attend a gathering, take your own food, drinks, cups, plates, and utensils.

As part of your celebration preparations, Pennsylvanians are encouraged to join the more than 696,000 residents who have already downloaded and use COVID Alert PA, the free mobile app offered by the Department of Health that is designed to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology and the exposure notification system developed by Apple and Google to help notify and give public health guidance to anyone who may have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Since the app only uses Bluetooth technology, it cannot and will not collect a user’s location data.

COVID Alert PA works in Pennsylvania, and several other locations in the United States including Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Washington D.C., Wyoming, and some parts of California.

“The number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are at the highest points we have seen,” Dr. Levine said. “As I have said many times, the virus knows no boundaries, even between family members. It is imperative that everyone follows the safety measures laid out throughout the pandemic to protect themselves, loved ones, and all Pennsylvanians.”

The risk of infection of COVID-19 from food products, food packaging, or bags is believed to be very low. However, it is always important to follow good food safety packages to reduce the risk of illness from common foodborne illnesses:


  • When unpacking groceries, refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within two hours of purchasing;
  • Do not use disinfectants designed for hard surfaces, such as bleach or ammonia, on food packaged in cardboard or plastic wrap; and
  • If reusable cloth bags become soiled, follow instructions for washing them, and dry them on the warmest appropriate setting.

Handling produce:

  • Gently rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under cold, running tap water;
  • Do not wash produce with soap, bleach, sanitizer, alcohol, disinfectant or any other chemical;
  • Scrub uncut firm produce (e.g., potatoes, cucumbers, melons) with a clean brush, even if you don’t plan to eat the peel; and
  • Salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice, and lime juice have not been shown to be effective at removing germs on produce.

Meal kits and delivery:

  • Because of the COVID-19 outbreak and increases in demand, some deliveries have been delayed;
  • If you have a meal kit or frozen prepared meal delivery, check the temperature of any food that is normally kept in the refrigerator or freezer (such as milk, meat, and eggs) immediately after it is delivered using a food thermometer and make sure the food is 40°F or below;
  • Refrigerate or freeze your delivery as soon as possible; and
  • To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, pay online or on the phone when you order (if that is an option) and accept deliveries without in-person contact whenever possible.

The CDC has additional information available about food safety and COVID-19.

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
  • Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.

Updated Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Photos, Graphics

All Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to sign up for AlertPA, a text notification system for health, weather, and other important alerts like COVID-19 updates from commonwealth agencies. Residents can sign up online at

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