“Current data indicates that neither food nor food packaging is a pathway for the spread of viruses causing respiratory illnesses, including SARS-CoV-2,” according to a new guidance document from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): “In other words, SARS-CoV-2 is not a direct food safety concern.”

The guidance​​ – which updates interim guidance issued by the FAO in April 2020 – notes that coronaviruses cannot multiply in food or on inanimate surfaces, only in humans and certain animals.

Moreover, once in the environment, viruses degrade and becomes less infectious, says the guidance: “It is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging (Goldman, 2020​​; ICMSF, 2020​​; NZFSSRC, 2020​​). Evidence to date does not indicate that food or food packaging is an important pathway for the spread of human respiratory illnesses, including SARS-CoV-2

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted during close contact among people through respiratory droplets and aerosols generated by activities such as coughing, sneezing, shouting, singing and speaking (WHO, 2020a​​). Alternatively, some respiratory droplets may land on surfaces surrounding the infected person.”​

Several papers have described the persistence of the SARS-CoV-2 on different surfaces, documenting that it can remain viable for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, up to four hours on copper, and up to 24 hours on cardboard. Others have investigated the stability of the virus on surfaces kept at different temperatures or varying other parameters.

While such investigations add to our understanding of the persistence and survivability of COVID-19, however, “they have typically been conducted under laboratory conditions, with controlled relative humidity, temperature and other factors, and should therefore be interpreted with caution when considering virus stability under actual conditions of the often cool (or freezing) and humid food processing and transportation environment,” ​notes the guidance.

“It is important to note that, although the detection of virus or viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) remnants on foods and food packaging provides evidence of previous contamination and is not disputed, there is no confirmation of SARS-CoV-2, or any other respiratory illness-causing virus, being transmitted by food or food packaging and causing illnesses in people who touch the contaminated food products or packaging.” 

Standard Cleaning And Sanitizing Procedures Should Be Effective​

As for mitigation efforts in food production environments, the virus responsible for COVID-19 is susceptible to most commonly used disinfectants and sanitizing agents used in food processing facilities, it adds: “Standard cleaning and sanitizing procedures, as outlined in the food business operator’s food safety management system should therefore be effective at disinfecting the food processing environment.

While microbiological environmental sampling has a role in verifying sanitation protocols, the testing for SARS-CoV-2 in food processing facilities or on food packaging is “costly, time consuming and does not aid in risk-based decision-making processes for consumer protection and is therefore not recommended,” ​​it claims.

‘Gloves are not essential for the management of COVID-19 in food’​

Gloves, meanwhile, “are not essential for the management of COVID-19 in food,” ​states the guidance, which notes that gloves can provide a false sense of security.

Handwashing is a greater protective barrier to infection than wearing disposable gloves.

Disposable gloves should not be used in the food work environment as a substitute for handwashing. Viruses and bacteria can contaminate disposable gloves in the same way they get onto workers’ hands. ​

“Removal of disposable gloves can lead to contamination of hands. Wearing disposable gloves can also give a false sense of security and may result in staff not washing hands as frequently as required. Non-touch alternatives may be implemented instead of those currently requiring use of gloves.”​

While surface contamination of items brought into a facility is an unlikely route of introduction, meanwhile, “it is prudent that all non-employees, including delivery drivers, thoroughly wash hands, sanitize or use a hand sanitizer before entering premises and, for instance, passing delivery documents to food premises staff.”​​

Vaccinations for food workers should be ‘encouraged and enabled’​

In general, says the guidance, raw agricultural food products and packaged foods are unlikely sources of SARS-CoV-2 exposure to workers, noting that “contact with infected co-workers” ​is the biggest challenge.

Resources:
http://www.fao.org/3/cb6030en/cb6030en.pdf

More News
2022 | How the pharma industry is shaping up for the future
News · 17/01/2022

Given the evolving on-ground situation and newer variant-led infections, the pandemic is far from over. In such a scenario, for businesses to stay relevant, we will need to be flexible and more adaptable to the changes that need to be embraced to keep core business growth drivers resilient.

READ MORE
2022 | Chemical & Renewable Energy Industry Outlook
News · 06/12/2021

As the chemical industry moves into 2022, strong demand for both commodity and specialty chemicals should keep prices robust throughout the year. The industry could face margin pressures amid raw material cost inflation, which will likely remain high through the first half of 2022.

READ MORE
China’s strategic power cuts & “green” Winter Olympics 2022
News · 05/12/2021

Blackouts and power cuts in the world’s second-largest economy have drawn attention to fuel supply problems that could complicate the country’s pandemic recovery.

READ MORE
FIEO urges govt to provide freight support to all exports including pharmaceuticals till March 2022
News · 22/11/2021

The Federation of Indian Export Organizations (FIEO), an apex body of Indian export promotion organizations, has urged the government to provide freight support to all exports including pharmaceuticals till 31st March 2022, as freight rates have skyrocketed and are likely to somber by March 2022.

READ MORE
World’s First Pig Kidney Transplant Into Human Successfully Completed
News · 02/11/2021

Science keeps winning! Scientists recently transplanted a pig’s kidney into a human being without immediate rejection by the immune system.

READ MORE
WHO approves first Malaria vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline for children
News · 02/11/2021

In a landmark announcement, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the use of the first-ever malaria vaccine for children. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus endorsed the RTS,S/AS01 malaria or Mosquirix – a vaccine developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

READ MORE
Power squeeze curbs Chinese growth, leaves Europe in a gas bind
News · 02/11/2021

China’s power shortages hit growth in the world’s second-biggest economy, threatening more pain for global supply chains, while Europe’s gas squeeze looked set to continue as Russia’s Gazprom showed no sign of hiking exports to the region in October.

READ MORE
Generic Agrochemicals in India Poised for a Bonanza: 22 Molecules Coming Off Patent by 2030
News · 04/10/2021

The fact that 22 such molecules are going to come out of their patent period will substantially expand the offerings of the Indian companies to people at home and abroad alike and may help fetch extra revenue.

READ MORE
Why US is pushing India to restart Covid vaccine exports
News · 16/09/2021

The United States has been pushing India to restart vaccine exports as it looks to stem the global spread of the Covid pandemic.

READ MORE