July 30, 2021

COVID-19 Is Not Transmitted Through Food or Food Packaging

Acting USDA Secretary Kevin Shea and Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. have released a statement confirming that COVID-19 is not transmitted through food or food packaging. Back in September 2020, the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) released an opinion paper stating the same result. At that time, ICMSF, “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.”

COVID-19 Is Not Transmitted Through Food or Food Packaging

When the pandemic first started picking up steam about a year ago, many were concerned about products shipped from China, as well as the possibility of the virus living on food and food packaging. Some people started disinfecting everything brought into their homes, isolating products and wiping down packages with soapy water and sanitizing wipes.

But the FDA and USDA say “there is no credible evidence of food or food packaging associated with or as a likely source of viral transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing COVID-19.” Both Shea and Woodcock reiterate that foods and packaging are highly unlikely to spread SARS-Co-V-2.

The virus is a respiratory virus. That means it is spread from person-to-person, unlike most foodborne pathogens such as norovirus and Salmonella that make you sick when you eat contaminated food. There are a few reports of the virus being detected on food and packaging, but those studies focused on finding the virus’ genetic fingerprint rather than the actual virus that can make you sick. COVID-19 is not transmitted through food or food packaging.

The number of virus particles that you could pick up by touching a surface would be very small. The amount needed for infection through inhalation is very high. So the chances of infection by touching packaging or eating food is “considered to be extremely low.”

There have been more than 100,000,000 cases of COVID-19 around the world, and there is no epidemiological evidence of food or food packaging as the source. And national and international surveillance systems have not been able to attribute any transmission through food products or packaging.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands when you touch something brought into your home because there are other pathogens out there. Use soap and lather for 20 seconds, then rinse and dry your hands thoroughly.

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