July 3, 2022

ICMSF Opinion on Coronavirus and Food Safety: Not a Hazard

The International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) has released an opinion paper on the relationship of the novel coronavirus to food safety. In brief, the ICMSF opinion on coronavirus and food safety is: “SARS-CoV-2 should not be considered a food safety hazard since a true food safety hazard enters the human body with food via the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, where it can infect organs/tissues elsewhere in the human body.”

ICMSF Opinion on Coronavirus and Food Safety: Not a Hazard

SARS-CoV-2 is the technical term for the novel virus. COVID-19 is the name of the illness it cases. The “19” is used as an identifier since the virus was first discovered in 2019. The virus is spread through respiratory droplets and infects humans through the respiratory system.

Many billions of meals have been consumed, and food packages handled, since the beginning of the pandemic. There is no evidence that food, food packaging, or food handling is a “source or important transmission route” for SARS-CoV-2 resulting in COVID-19.

Since there have been no reports of transmission through food or food packaging, the paper states it is highly unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 is a food safety risk. There are a few reports of the virus being found on food ingredients, products, and packaging materials, but those reports do not specify how the virus was identified, how much virus was on those products, and whether it was viable and infectious.

The best way to identify the virus is gene-based. Most of the reports of the virus on food just shows that the viruses’ RNA is present, but viability was not established. The paper also points out that virus viability decreases over time when the virus is outside the body, so an actual infectious dose of live virus being present on these products is unlikely. There is also no documented evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can survive the harsh low pH environment of the human stomach.

At the same time, food producers, manufacturers, and handlers must understand the importance of using good food hygiene practices to minimize the possibility of contact surfaces as a vector for the virus.

And while food and food packaging isn’t considered a factor for transmission, factories and slaughterhouses have been the epicenters of many COVID-19 outbreaks, which means the virus is an important occupational hazard to human health. Risk mitigation factors have to be tailored to specific workplaces. These mitigation efforts can be and should be built and integrated into all facility’s HACCP plans that are already in place.

Following the ICMSF opinion on coronavirus and food safety will help corporations keep their employees as safe as possible and should reassure the public.

Report Your Food Poisoning Case
[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

Home About Site Map Contact Us Sponsored by Pritzker Hageman, P.A., a Minneapolis, MN law firm that helps food poisoning victims nationally.