COVID-19 and Food Safety – The Facts?
There is currently no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted through food, or that food or food packaging has been a vehicle for the spread of the disease. However, there’s a lot we don’t know. So, our understanding about the risk that food poses, could change as more information becomes available.
As far as we do know, the disease appears to be spread mainly from person-to-person through virus particles that are transmitted when someone coughs or sneezes. While COVID-19 can theoretically be spread by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes, that’s not thought to be its primary mode of transmission.
There are also certain factors that could make transmission of the disease through food less likely, even if the virus is present on food or a food worker catches it.
First, the food safety measures that are already in place to prevent foodborne illness — such as frequent hand-washing, cleaning of surfaces and utensils, and cooking food to the right temperature — would also reduce the transmission of any virus particles through food.
Another factor is the biology of the virus. It cannot survive for weeks at a time on surfaces and unlike bacteria, viruses cannot grow inside food, so the amount of virus in the food would be expected to dwindle with time, rather than grow.
Also, in theory, this type of virus should not survive well in the stomach, which is very acidic. Still, the extent to which people can become infected by touching their mouths, or eating contaminated food, is unclear.
Due to this uncertainty, ensuring the highest possible standards of food hygiene has become increasingly important. Fitness to work checks, training and closely supervising food handlers should be stepped up. As should verification checks by senior managers and auditors to make sure COVID-19 and food safety controls are in place and working.
If you need help completing a COVID-19 risk assessment or would like to arrange a remote audit, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01442 877322