Last updated: 10 February 2021
There is no definitive evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through food or food packaging. COVID-19 and traces of its genetic material have been detected in China on imported food products and packaging. However, there are no confirmed cases of anyone contracting COVID-19 from food or food packaging.
At a recent press conference, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that further research is required into the origin and spread of COVID-19. This includes investigation into the role of the following pathways:
- direct animal to human transmission
- introduction of an intermediate animal host that then leads to human transmission
- transmission through cold chain food (potential for surface contamination acting as a source of infection or the food itself).
Transmission through food
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease spreading from person to person. It’s not a foodborne disease. There’s no evidence to suggest people will get infected by swallowing the virus in, or on, food or drink.
Research has shown that the virus is inactivated in the acidic environment of the stomach, and is unlikely to reach the gastrointestinal tract and cause illness. Read more on the
US National Library of Medicine National Health Institutes of Health website.
The International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) has also concluded that there is no documented evidence that food is a significant source or vehicle for transmission of COVID-19. Read more about the
ICMSF opinion on SARS-C0V-2 and its relationship to food safety.
The main risk of transmission is from close contact with infected people. The best approach is to practise social distancing and to maintain good personal hygiene at all times. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water and avoid touching your face to reduce risk of infection.
Transmission from food packaging
Food packaging hasn’t presented any specific risk of transmission. It’s not yet confirmed how long the virus survives or remains detectable on surfaces. Studies suggest it may be a few hours or up to several weeks. This depends on the type of surface, temperature and humidity of the environment.
There remains no known cases of anyone contracting COVID-19 from food or food packaging. We are aware that the COVID-19 virus and traces of its genetic material have been detected in China on imported food products and packaging. The WHO has recommended further investigation of frozen food and packaging as a potential source of transmission.
We will continue to monitor and assess evidence in relation to the potential transmission of COVID-19 from food or food packaging and consider its implications for our current advice.
If you are concerned, surfaces can be sanitised with common household disinfectants such as alcohol-based sanitiser or bleach.
Washing fruit and vegetables
Wash fresh fruit and vegetables under running water before eating. Don’t use soap, disinfectants or detergents to wash your food. These cleaning products aren’t designed for human consumption. They may actually be unsafe to use with food.
Safety of meat
It's suspected COVID-19 may have originated in animals. It’s not likely transmission to humans occurs through meat in Australia.
WHO recommends properly cooking meat and not eating any meat from diseased animals.
In Australia all meat sold is subject to strict controls. These include requirements prohibiting the use of meat and offal from diseased animals for human consumption. It’s unlikely that you need to take extra precautions for meat in Australia to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
All raw meat can contain other microorganisms that cause food poisoning. It’s always important to maintain good food safety when handling raw meat. Be careful to prevent cross contamination and cook meats properly, especially mince and chicken.
We always recommend good food safety practices when handling any food.
Read more topics on
Novel Coronavirus and Food Safety.