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Health Experts Urge Prep, Not Panic For Coronavirus

crowded store

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found late last month that 55 percent of people surveyed are concerned that there will be a major outbreak of the coronavirus in the U.S., and 57 percent worry it will affect the country’s economy negatively. (Paul Townsend/flickr)

Coronavirus fears have shaken up the food industry on both supply and demand sides of the checkout counter.

The pneumonia-like virus is linked to more than 3,000 deaths worldwide, most in China, and this week has seen a slow trickle of new cases and fatalities in the U.S.

Consumers worried about possible quarantines are pulling bulk items off the shelves and waiting in epic lines at stores.

Unlike climate disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, disease outbreaks don’t take utilities like power and water offline. But experts say those preparing for the worst should take time to plan before rushing into the supermarket scrum.

Nielson data from February shows a surge in durable food items, with fruit snacks topping the list at a 12.6 percent spike, and energy drinks and dried beans tied at 10.1 percent above levels recorded last year. Fourth place? Pretzels. Oddly, the salty bar snack got a 9 percent increase, two slots above water, which only got 5.1 percent more.

Celery declined by 15.7 percent. No mystery there.

Big food companies have taken a hit along with the rest of the stock market even as sales spike at the checkout counter. Companies such as Nestlé and Cargill have curtailed non-essential travel for employees. Supply chain woes have companies like Coca Cola looking for sweeteners and other materials that normally come from China.

The Department of Homeland Security recommends having two-week supply of food and water, not to mention any needed prescriptions, to prepare for a possible pandemic or quarantine.

Nutritionists who spoke to Business Insider said shoppers should plan meals carefully instead of buying too many staples that won’t get used. Clearing out any expired items and taking stock of what’s already in the cupboard is a key step in planning.

At the supermarket, balance durable protein sources like canned fish and beans with canned and frozen vegetables, whole grains and dry pasta, and beneficial fats like olive oil and nuts. They also suggested making large batches of favorite meals for storage. Vegetables with the best shelf life and nutritional bang per pound include potatoes, cabbage, onions and citrus fruits.

Nutritionists said to keep a close eye on sodium intake when relying on shelf-stable food, and for adding flavor to use non-sodium spices like dried herbs, black pepper, chili and curry powders.

Oh, and don’t forget to make sure you have a can opener.

Read More:

Long Lines, Low Supplies: Coronavirus Chaos Sends Shoppers Into Panic-Buying Mode (Washington Post)

You Should Prepare For The Coronavirus — But Don’t Buy More Than You Need (Vox)

What 3 Nutritionists Recommend Stockpiling For Healthy, Flavorful Meals During A Coronavirus Quarantine (Business Insider)

People Are Stockpiling Dried Beans And Energy Drinks In Coronavirus Panic (Eater)

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