COVID-19 Update – 3/30/2020

From the recent FDA Q&A posting (3/27/2020) –

March 27, 2020

Should I take additional measures during the COVID-19 pandemic to mitigate the risk of SARS-CoV-2 coming into my home on food and food packaging?

Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.  It may be possible that a person can 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 main way the virus spreads. CDC notes that in general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.It is more likely that a person will be exposed by person-to-person transmission involving close contact with someone who is ill or shedding the virus.

Consumers can follow CDC guidelines on how to protect yourself, especially the advice on frequent hand washing  with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and frequent cleaning and disinfecting  of surfaces.

If you are concerned about contamination of food and food packaging you have purchased from the grocery store, wash your hands after handling food and food packages when you return from the grocery store and after removing packaging from food. In addition, it’s always critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill – to prevent foodborne illness. FDA also has advice about safely selecting and serving raw produce.

If a worker in my food processing facility has tested positive for COVID-19, should I test the environment for the SARS-CoV-2 virus?

Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Therefore, we do not believe there is a need to conduct environmental testing in food settings for the virus that causes COVID 19 for the purpose of food safety. Cleaning and sanitizing the surfaces is a better use of resources than testing to see if the virus is present.

Facilities are required to use personnel practices that protect against contamination of food, food contact surfaces and packaging and to maintain clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces. Although it is possible that the infected worker may have touched surfaces in your facility, FDA-regulated food manufacturers are required to follow Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs). Maintaining CGMPs in the facility should minimize the potential for surface contamination and eliminate contamination when it occurs. With the detection of the coronavirus in asymptomatic people and studies showing survival of coronavirus on surfaces for short periods of time, as an extra precaution, food facilities may want to consider a more frequent cleaning and sanitation schedule for high human contact surfaces.

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