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Transmission of COVID-19 by food and food packaging

Last updated: 22 September 2020

There’s no evidence COVID-19 can be contracted through food or food packaging.

This aligns with current advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), other international health and food safety authorities, and both Australian and New Zealand Governments.

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 (ICSMF) 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 ICSMF 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.

We are aware that traces of COVID-19 were detected in China on imported frozen chicken wings (from Brazil) and on food packaging from imported seafood (from Ecuador).

However, there remains no known cases of anyone contracting COVID-19 from food or food packaging – and no evidence for the viability of the virus detected on these surfaces.

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.


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