No Evidence of Food and Food Packaging Spreading the CCP Virus: CDC

June 26, 2020 Updated: June 26, 2020

The CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) said on June 25 that the CCP virus or the novel coronavirus can spread through food and food packaging under certain conditions, though no evidence has yet come to light.

“It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food or food packaging, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,” said the federal agency.

The NCIRD however said that this is no evidence of the CCP virus transmitting this way.

“Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19,” said NCIRD.

It advised people to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after shopping, handling food packages, and before preparing or eating food.

“If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry,” said the NCIRD, adding that it is a healthy practice always to adhere to good food safety practices to reduce the risk of common foodborne pathogens.

A woman shops in the chicken and meat section at a grocery store in Washington on April 28, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

No Reports of Transmission Yet

The risks of CCP virus infection from food are very low and currently, there are no reports yet of the infection happening through touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags.

“The risk of getting COVID-19 from food you cook yourself or from handling and consuming food from restaurants and takeout or drive-thru meals is thought to be very low. Currently, there is no evidence that food is associated with spreading the virus that causes COVID-19,” said NCIRD adding the risk is also low with handling food products, food packaging, or bags.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a national charity, has compiled reports of the CCP virus spreading in food processing facilities and it said the outbreaks in America’s food processing facilities are not as pervasive as at the meatpacking facilities. However, it is on the rise and about 1,200 food processing workers at 60 sites have been infected.

“Although some people who work in food production and processing facilities have gotten COVID-19, there is no evidence of the virus spreading to consumers through the food or packaging that workers in these facilities may have handled,” said the NCIRD.

An employee prepares a take away order
An employee prepares a takeaway order at a fast-food restaurant as the spread of the CCP virus affected local business in Roanoke, Va., on April 18, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Safety Measures

The CDC has also suggested practices for ensuring food safety in the kitchen, for everyday handling of food packages and fresh produce and also for handling bulk meat, poultry, and seafood purchasing.

The federal agency said the CCP virus can not grow on food—while a bacteria can grow on food, a virus needs a person or an animal as a host.

“Currently, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads to people through food. However, it is important to safely handle and continue to cook foods to their recommended cooking temperatures to prevent foodborne illness,” it said, adding that it also can not be transmitted through water.

The CDC cautioned that kitchen counters should be regularly cleaned and disinfected with disinfectant products and if someone is infected at home, all the “high-touch” surfaces should be disinfected too.

It has advised that meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishable groceries should be refrigerated after unpackaging.

“Do NOT use disinfectants designed for hard surfaces, such as bleach or ammonia, on food packaged in cardboard or plastic wrap,” said the CDC.

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