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No Evidence COVID-19 Is Transmitted through Food and Food Packaging

AMES, Iowa -- Over the past month, false information about COVID-19 and food and food packaging has been reported in the media, websites and blogs and shared through social media, note food safety and nutrition and wellness specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Angela Shaw, Anirudh Naig and Shannon Coleman want Iowans to know there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through food and food packaging.

Shaw is a food safety state specialist and associate professor in the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Naig is a food safety state specialist and associate professor in the ISU Department of Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management. Coleman is an assistant professor and nutrition and wellness state specialist in the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

The ISU Extension and Outreach specialists said the Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, United States Department of Agriculture, and the European Food Safety Authority are in full agreement that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 has spread through food or food packaging. Previous coronavirus epidemics likewise showed no evidence of having been spread through food or packaging.

In addition, according to the CDC, currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods, and there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.

“Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like Norovirus and Hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness and not food poisoning, and foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission,” Shaw said.  

Naig said it may be possible that a person could get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads.

Coleman noted that the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person in some communities in the U.S.

“The CDC recommends that if you are sick, stay home until you are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. CDC recommends routine cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs. There is a list of approved disinfectants available on the EPA website. These disinfectants include Lysol Disinfecting Wipes (all scents) and Clorox Germicidal Bleach,” Coleman said.

The extension specialists agree there is no need to clean and/or sanitize the outside of food packaging or use non-food grade detergents to wash food to prevent contamination of COVID-19. Handwashing and social distancing remain the top recommendations for consumers to remain safe.  

“It is not recommended to wash produce with soap, as it can cause vomiting and diarrhea and make consumers very sick,” Shaw added.


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