March 29, 2021

There is no evidence of COVID-19 spread through food/food packaging

There is no evidence of COVID-19 spread through food/food packaging

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently stated there is no evidence of COVID-19 transmission through food or food packaging. With over 100 million cases worldwide and through international surveillance systems, the agencies agree that there is no credible epidemiological evidence of transmission of the disease to humans from food packaging.

“Our confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply remains steadfast. Consumers should be reassured that we continue to believe, based on our understanding of currently available reliable scientific information, and supported by overwhelming international scientific consensus, that the foods they eat and food packaging they touch are highly unlikely to spread SARS-CoV-2,” said Acting USDA Secretary Kevin Shea and Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D in a press release.

The joint statement from the agencies emphasizes that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread person-to-person and not from contaminated foods. Most of the studies that the agencies considered focused on the detection of the virus’ genetic fingerprint rather than evidence of transmission of the virus relating to human infection. The agencies considered the possibility of contamination through food packaging and stated, “given that the number of virus particles that could be theoretically picked up by touching a surface would be very small and the amount needed for infection via oral inhalation would be very high, the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging or eating food is considered to be extremely low.”

In September 2020, the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) released an opinion on COVID-19 and its relationship to food safety. The ICMSF report stated that despite the billions of meals handled, prepared, and consumed since the start of the pandemic, to date, there has not been any evidence that food or food packaging is an important means of transmission. ICMSF also emphasized that COVID-19 should not be considered a food safety hazard.

Emanuel Goldman, a microbiologist at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School told NPR, "It's so rare as to be of negligible importance in the real world to most people.” He even stated that you'd be more likely to win the lottery than getting infected through a frozen package of food, "and it would have to be one of those lotteries with very few winners, like the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes."