United Fresh News > NZFSSRC Potential For Foodborne Transmission Of Covid-19 Literature Review Update - April 2020

8 April 2020

NZFSSRC Potential For Foodborne Transmission Of Covid-19 Literature Review Update - April 2020

United Fresh is cooperating with wide range of food industries and organisations to support the New Zealand Food Safety & Science Research Centre literature review update Potential For Foodborne Transmission Of Covid-19. We present a very brief summary of the more extensive document. The full literature review is available here.

The literature review set out a series of questions outlining issues food industries need to consider.  The main aim is to collate the available information gleaned from the literature in a way that allows industry to make informed decisions in this time of uncertainty within the current level of knowledge about the virus.

The report addressed the following seven research questions posed and summarised the answers based on the available literature.  United Fresh continues to support this important initiative from the NZFSSRC. 

Q1 What is the international best practice regarding reducing the likelihood that food products or packaging are vectors for COVID-19?

Q2 What is international best practice for mitigation options to reduce transfer of covid-19 from workers to food products?

The answers to Question one and two are essentially the same:

The best practice for reducing the risk of contamination during food production is to continue managing the risk of COVID-19 infection amongst production or supply chain workers. Employers can promote and implement good personal hygiene practices for all workers. 

Workers should be informing their employers and seeking medical advice should they show any symptoms of COVID-19 or have travelled to affected regions.


Q3 What is the latest information on the routes of transmission for COVID-19 (including anything that implicates food as a vector)? 

The primary route for human infections is via respiratory droplets. It may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface/object that has the virus on it and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes but is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

The virus has been found in the faeces of some infected people however, there is no evidence that further virus transmission has occurred.


Q4 What is the international consensus on survival rates of COVID-19 in food products? 

Q5 What is the international consensus on survival rates on surfaces of fresh food especially if the food is consumed fresh and not cooked?

The answers to Q4 & 5 are essentially the same:

No published studies on COVID-19 survival in or on food products including fresh food were located. Pasteurisation of milk inactivated the virus.

Another type of coronavirus showed survival on lettuce for up to 2 days.

It is unlikely that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food, and there isn’t evidence to date of this happening. Usual good hygienic manufacturing practices and thorough cooking for cooked products will minimise the risk of transmission for any foodborne illness.


Q6 What is the likelihood of a person becoming infected with COVID-19 from consuming the virus?

There Is no information on the likelihood of infection from consuming food. Stomach acid and bile salts are thought to inactivate COVID-19 but more research is required.


Q7 What are the risk management options for companies when a worker is identified as having COVID-19? 

Scientific studies provide limited information to answer these specific questions. This would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.  The general advice is focused on preventing person to person transmission within the workplace.


The updated literature review is available on our COVID-19 page (located under the Technical tab).