Can the Virus Be Spread Through Food? Here’s What the CDC Says.

Can the Virus Be Spread Through Food? Here’s What the CDC Says.

Food Safety Concerns and the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate there is no current evidence of any transmission of the novel coronavirus 2019, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), through the ingestion of food. Further information from the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirms that the virus associated with COVID-19 appears to spread primarily from person to person through respiratory droplets. This transmission is unlike food-borne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses such as hepatitis A or norovirus.

Virus Transmission from Surfaces or Objects 

Although COVID-19 appears not to transmit via food, surfaces and objects contaminated with respiratory droplets might provide a place where transmission could be achieved through touch. The CDC’s most current information suggests the novel coronavirus can remain viable on a wide range of surfaces and materials. This viability could include surfaces used for food preparation, eating areas, and shelving and other food stocking hardware both at home and in grocery stores, and restaurants. Commercial shopping carts and checkout surfaces also pose a risk of virus deposit. Viability probably varies depending on the composition of the surface. Despite the preceding concerns, at present, the CDC states there exists no documented transmission from a surface to an individual. 

Preemptive Cleaning and Disinfection

Whether in a residential or commercial setting, individuals and business owners need guidance on how to respond to the potential of surface transmission of COVID-19. Regardless of the current lack of documented surface to human transmission, the CDC recommends the cleaning of obviously soiled surfaces and disinfection with products on the EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims list. Consultation with each state or municipality Department of Health or food-related licensing authority should lead to more specific local recommendations or requirements for business owners.

Additional Infection Control Guidance for Workplaces

In commercial settings, general advice follows that of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as the CDC and FDA. OSHA recommends:

  • Frequent washing of hands timed for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
  • Alcohol-based (at least 60 percent) hand sanitizer as a stand-in when soap and water unavailable
  • Avoiding contact with visibly ill people
  • Refraining from touching eyes, nose, or mouth 

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

As a dynamic and responsive foundation for the nation’s food safety system, Congress enacted the FSMA to ensure the safety of the country’s food supply. As the challenges continue with COVID-19 and other infectious agents, commercial entities that are covered by this legislation follow the standards as applied to their business, making sure to prevent rather than to react to food safety issues, including any issues with COVID-19.

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