Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Food Safety – Can The Virus Be Passed On Through Food?
How is COVID-19 spread?
People infected with the COVID-19 virus, whether they are obviously ill or not showing symptoms, will actively shed the virus in sputum and mucus particles. This shedding potentially contaminates the environment and anything located in that environment, including food products.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. (Source: CDC)
Can the virus be passed on through food?
Since COVID-19 is so new, the jury’s out on this.
What we do know is that COVID-19 is a virus and therefore needs a host. Scientists are using experience gained with SARS and MERS which suggests that people are not infected with the virus through food. At date of print, there has been no evidence of cases where the virus was passed on through food.
However transmission of the virus via potentially hazardous foods - particularly raw or undercooked meat - is another matter. This does become a food safety/food handling issue.
Thorough cooking is expected to kill the virus because of what we know about SARS: That a heat treatment of at least 30min at 60ºC/140°F is effective. At time of print, this has not been confirmed for COVID-19.
The Bottom Line:
Food handlers must not be allowed to work when sick. At time of print there is no vaccine or cure for COVID-19.
Employee food safety training; enforcement of employee hygiene policies; stringent cleaning and sanitizing and hand washing are your best defence tools against this virus, AND other pathogens in your food establishment.