Food and food packaging are not a likely source of viral transmission of COVID-19.
That’s according to a new joint statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which cited multiple research studies looking into the situation.
It’s been more than a year now since COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global health emergency, and the agencies said the available evidence suggests that food and food packaging are highly unlikely to spread SARS-CoV-2.
“Our confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply remains steadfast,” the agencies’ statement said.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread from person to person, unlike foodborne or gastrointestinal viruses, such as norovirus and hepatitis A, which do often make people ill through contaminated food.
“Given that the number of virus particles that could be theoretically picked up by touching a surface would be very small and the amount needed for infection via oral inhalation would be very high, the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging or eating food is considered to be extremely low,” the agencies said.
The update is based on the best available information from scientific bodies across the globes, including a continued international consensus that the risk is exceedingly low for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans via food and food packaging.
For example, a recent opinion from the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF), stated, “Despite the billions of meals and food packages handled since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, to date there has not been any evidence that food, food packaging or food handling is a source or important transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 resulting in COVID-19.”
Additional literature reviews from other countries agree.
Furthermore, transmission has not been attributed to food products or packaging through national and international surveillance systems.
“Food business operations continue to produce a steady supply of safe food following current Good Manufacturing Practices and preventive controls, focusing on good hygiene practices and keeping workers safe,” the statement said. “Based on the scientific information that continues to be made available over the course of the pandemic, the USDA and FDA continue to be confident in the safety of the food available to American consumers and exported to international customers.”