There’s ‘No Evidence’ Of Foodborne Transmission Of COVID-19, Says WHO
COVID-19 is not transmitted by food or food packaging, says WHO

There is ‘no evidence’ that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be transmitted in food or on food packaging, said the World Health Organization on Thursday.

WHO’s Executive Director of Health Emergencies Mike Ryan made the comments in response to reports that a dozen frozen chicken wings imported into China’s southern city of Shenzhen tested positive for COVID-19, sparking concern that contaminated food could spur outbreaks of the coronavirus.

So far, China has already tested a “few hundred thousand” food samples for COVID-19, but only ten have tested positive for COVID-19, said the WHO on Thursday. And even though viral genetic material can be found on some surfaces, like packaged food, there is still no evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through food, emphasized the Organization.

In early July, China suspended imports of Ecuadorian shrimp for fear that the products could spawn COVID-19 outbreaks, after reports from the port cities of Xiamen and Dalian. And on Wednesday, the virus was identified on frozen shrimp packaging from Ecuador, during a routine inspection by officials in eastern China’s Anhui Province, according to Reuters. But so far, no human cases of coronavirus have been linked to the contaminated food.

“There is no evidence [that] food or the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus”, said Ryan on Thursday, at a regular press briefing. “People should not fear food or food packaging or processing or delivery of food…Our food, from a COVID-19 perspective, is safe.”

WHO Guidance Says Food-borne Transmission “Highly Unlikely” & Virus Can Be Killed By Cooking

It is “highly unlikely” that COVID-19 can be contracted from food or food packaging, states the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), in their joint scientific guidance on food safety from early April. 

“We know that the virus can remain on surfaces for some time, but the virus can be inactivated on your hands if you wash your hands”, added WHO’s Technical Lead for COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove. “We have no examples of where this virus has been transmitted as a foodborne…viruses can be killed if the meat is cooked.”

Thus, sanitizing food preparation surfaces and cooking meals thoroughly can effectively kill most viruses.

“Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food; they need an animal or human host to multiply,” according to the WHO’s guidance on food safety. “There is no evidence to date of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses being transmitted via food or food packaging.”

Rather, the main drivers of COVID-19 transmission are respiratory droplets or aerosolized particles released from coughing and sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons: Flixtey.

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