US agencies find “no credible evidence” COVID-19 transmitted by food packaging

Published on
February 19, 2021

In a rare joint statement, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have firmly stated that there is “no credible evidence” that COVID-19 can be transmitted from food or food packaging.

The statement comes over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and months after very early studies indicated that COVID-19 might be able to travel on food. China has been one country that has taken the potential threat seriously, with customs slowdowns for heightened inspections of seafood and complete import closures from COVID-19 impacted countries. The country even falsely linked imported salmon to COVID-19 after an outbreak was linked to the Xinfadi market in Beijing, spooking seafood shoppers.  

The three agencies said that the newest update on COVID-19 transmission is “based on the best available information from scientific bodies across the globe,” which includes an international consensus that the risk of transmission from food packaging or food is “exceedingly low.”

“Our confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply remains steadfast,” the joint statement said.  “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.”

The joint statement was welcomed by the National Fisheries Institute, which saw the statement as assurance companies can operate under the assumption food packaging is not to blame for spreading COVID-19.

“Today’s statement is an example of experts adhering to science and translating that high-level understanding into an important public health message,” National Fisheries Institute Vice President for Regulatory and Technical Affairs Lisa Weddi said in a release. “From epidemiologists to biologists, authorities are confident in the safety of the seafood supply and, what’s more, health experts cite seafood’s role in supporting a healthy immune system.”

According to the joint statement, despite billions of meals and food packages being handled over the year since the COVID-19 pandemic started, there hasn’t been a single identified instance of food-based transmission of COVID-19.

“In addition, considering the more than 100 million cases of COVID-19, we have not seen epidemiological evidence of food or food packaging as the source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to humans,” the joint statement said. “Furthermore, transmission has not been attributed to food products or packaging through national and international surveillance systems. Food business operations continue to produce a steady supply of safe food following current Good Manufacturing Practices and preventive controls, focusing on good hygiene practices and keeping workers safe.”  

Photo courtesy of VICHAILAO/Shutterstock

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