Potential for Foodborne Transmission of COVID-19: Literature Review Update - May 2020

22 May 2020

Potential for Foodborne Transmission of COVID-19: Literature Review Update - May 2020

The New Zealand Food Safety Science Research Centre (NZFSSRC) have released an update of the potential for foodborne transmission of Covid-19 literature review.

The following 6 questions and answers summarise the findings.  These are the same as the previous update.

Within this document the Ministry of Health advisory regarding the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as facemasks and gloves is outlined. 

This may be of interest given the significant debate about the use of facemasks internationally.

What is the international best practice for mitigation options to reduce transfer of Covid-19 from workers to food products?
The best practice for reducing the risk of contamination is to continue managing the risk of Covid-19 infection amongst production or supply chain 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.

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 raising the possibility of faecal-oral transmission via food, but there is no evidence this has occurred.

What is the international consensus on survival rates of Covid-19 in food products?
No published studies on Covid-19 survival in or on food products were located.  Various types of unpasteurised milk showed the virus survived for up to 72 hours.  Pasteurisation weakened the virus.

What is the international consensus on survival rate on surfaces of fresh food especially if the food is consumed fresh and not cooked?
No published studies on Covid-19 survival on fresh food were located.  Another type of coronavirus showed survival on lettuce for up to 2 days.

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.

What are the risk management options for companies when a worker is identified as having Covid-19?
This would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

For the full report visit our COVID-19 page here.