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 Table of Contents  
LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 305-307

Food safety amid coronavirus disease 2019


Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

Date of Submission17-Nov-2020
Date of Decision20-Nov-2020
Date of Acceptance23-Nov-2020
Date of Web Publication24-Dec-2020

Correspondence Address:
Ravinder Thaper
Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University, 345 W Magnolia Ave, 36849 Auburn, AL
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/cmrp.cmrp_64_20

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How to cite this article:
Thaper R. Food safety amid coronavirus disease 2019. Curr Med Res Pract 2020;10:305-7

How to cite this URL:
Thaper R. Food safety amid coronavirus disease 2019. Curr Med Res Pract [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 26];10:305-7. Available from: http://www.cmrp.org/text.asp?2020/10/6/305/304833




  Introduction Top


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) causes respiratory illness in people,[1] which spreads very quickly from person to person. The spread of COVID-19 has become a global concern which emerged from China in December 2019. The mode of spread of the virus is minute droplets that get released into the air while sneezing or coughing. One can get infected if an individual touches the contaminated surfaces and subsequently touches his/her face, mouth, eyes or mouth.[2],[3] The symptoms of illness caused by COVID-19 are sore throat, cough, fever, chills, difficulty in breathing, rigors with chills, muscle pain, headache and loss of taste or smell. In a press release by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on January 2020, the first case of a novel coronavirus was confirmed in Washington state from a patient who had travelled to Wuhan, China. The current article focuses on food safety amid COVID-19.


  Can Coronaviruses be Transmitted From Food and Food Packaging? Top


According to the experts in the World Health Organisation (WHO), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), United States-Food and Drug Administration (US-FDA) and CDC,[4],[5],[6],[7] it has not been scientifically established yet that the virus can get transmitted through food or food packaging. As recommended by the USDA, the virus may stay for a while on a surface depending on its type, therefore one should follow '4 key steps of food safety – clean, separate, cook, and chill'.[8] The Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends that if a person has any illness or COVID-19 illness, that individual should be excluded to avoid unsanitary conditions caused by coughing or sneezing on food products.[8] There have been no known facts about if there is a risk of transfer of the virus from imported food products in the USA.[9],[10]

Although as mentioned above the virus does not get transmitted from the food itself, there is a concern about the persistence of the virus in raw foods from animal origin. Different types of materials such as metal, steel, paper, plastic and glass are used for packing food items, as represented in [Figure 1]. If the packaging/container gets in contact with a virus, the virus can survive on the surface in the range of few hours to few days depending on the surface, as mentioned in [Table 1].
Figure 1: Market share of different types of food-packaging materials[11]

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Table 1: Survival time of severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus on different types of surfaces

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It has been observed by researchers that the human coronaviruses can remain active for up to 9 days on inanimate surfaces.[14] However, they are thermolabile and are susceptible to cooking at 70°C. As the virus is sensitive to heat, the risk can be reduced by thorough cooking of food. It has been advised by the WHO that coronaviruses are stable in the frozen state and can persist for up to 2 years at −20°C. With 1 min of exposure time, 0.1% sodium hypochlorite, or 62%–71% ethanol, has the potential to reduce the infectious activity of coronavirus, which is the case of severe acute respiratory syndrome-corornavirus-2,[14] as detailed in [Table 2].
Table 2: Disinfection time of different agents for severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus

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  Precautions to be Taken During and After Grocery Shopping Top


An individual may wear mask and gloves and use disinfecting wipes during grocery shopping. Individuals should avoid touching surfaces unnecessarily, and one should not touch his/her face or mouth. Individuals should maintain a safe distance of 6 feet from other people nearby. The shopper should not spend too much time in one place, else can order online. When one is experiencing being sick, the person should avoid going to the store. People should always try to opt for cashless transactions and pay using credit/debit cards. One should try to go to the store in hours when fewer people can be expected. In the store once back from the grocery store, all the outer unnecessary packaging of the food items should be discarded as per the guidelines of the United Nations Children's Fund-UNICEF.[17] The fruits and vegetables may be washed firmly and thoroughly, may be with two-parts water and 1-part apple cider vinegar, baking soda and water and brush to ensure thorough cleaning. They must be put in the refrigerator within 2 h as per the guidelines by the US-FDA.[18] The vegetables should not be washed with soap due to the risk of ingestion. Milk cartons/gallons and other boxed food items can be disinfected with disinfectant sanitisers. In the end, one should wash hands with soap and water for 20s as per CDC recommendations.[19] The FDA recommends that one should sanitise the kitchen counters with five tablespoons (1/3rd of cup) of unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 3.79L of water, or four teaspoons of bleach per 0.94L of water.[18] This solution or other disinfecting products should not be used on food. The WHO recommends that raw animal products such as raw meat, raw milk or raw animal organs should be avoided and handled with care for avoiding cross-contamination with the other uncooked foods.[20]


  Conclusions Top


It can be said that there are no research studies on the transmission of coronavirus from food packaging and the food itself. The current article is raising concerns that food packaging may be the cause of transmission of the infectious virus. Therefore, precautions should be exercised to mitigate the infection by (a) disinfecting the food packaging, which has not been studied yet; (b) discarding all the unnecessary outer food packaging and (c) transferring food to clean utensils, thorough firm rinsing and washing of vegetables followed by cooking thoroughly.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Chan JF, Kok KH, Zhu Z, Chu H, To KK, Yuan S, et al. Genomic characterization of the 2019 novel human-pathogenic coronavirus isolated from a patient with atypical pneumonia after visiting Wuhan. Emerg Microbes Infect 2020;9:221-36.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
World Health Organization. Coronavirus. Available from: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 23].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Transmission Characteristics and Principles of Infection Prevention and Control. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infectionprevention-and-control/transmission-characteristics-and-principles-of-infectionprevention-and-control. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 23].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
World Health Organization. “COVID-19 and Food Safety: Guidance for Food Businesses.” Interim Guidance. Available from: https://www. who.int/publications-detail/covid-19-and-food-safety-guidance-for-food-businesses. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 07].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
United States Department of Agriculture-USDA. Food Supply Chain. Available from: https://www.usda.gov/coronavirus/food-supply-chain. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 26].  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
United States Food and Drug Administration- US FDA. Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/food-safety-and-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 26].  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Food Safety and Coronavirus Disease 2019. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/newsletter/food-safety-and-Coronavirus.html. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 26].  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Corona Virus Disease-COVID-19. Available from: https://www.usda.gov/coronaviru. [Last accessed on 2020 May 01].  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Impacts of COVID-19 on the Food Industry. Available from: https://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/impacts-of-covid-19-on-the-foodindustry/. [Last accessed on 2020 May 01].  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Is Corona Virus a Food Safety Issue? Available from: https://foodsafety.ces.ncsu.edu/wpcontent/uploads/2020/03/Food-Safety_COVID-19_Flyer_031720-1.pdf?fwd=no. [Last accessed on 2020 May 01].  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Food Packaging Materials. Available from: https://www.foodpackagingforum.org/food-packaging-health/foodpackaging-materials. [Last accessed on 2020 May 02].  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Duan SM, Zhao XS, Wen RF, Huang JJ, Pi GH, Zhang SX, et al. Stability of SARS coronavirus in human specimens and environment and its sensitivity to heating and UV irradiation. Biomed Environ Sci 2003;16:246-55.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
Chan KH, Peiris JS, Lam SY, Poon LL, Yuen KY, Seto WH. The effects of temperature and relative humidity on the viability of the SARS coronavirus. Adv Virol 2011;2011:734690.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Kampf G, Todt D, Pfaender S, Steinmann E. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and its inactivation with biocidal agents. J Hosp Infect 2020;104:246-51.  Back to cited text no. 14
    
15.
Rabenau HF, Cinatl J, Morgenstern B, Bauer G, Preiser W, Doerr HW. Stability and inactivation of SARS coronavirus. Med Microbiol Immunol 2005;194:1-6.  Back to cited text no. 15
    
16.
Saknimit M, Inatsuki I, Sugiyama Y, Yagami K. Virucidal efficacy of physico-chemical treatments against coronaviruses and parvoviruses of laboratory animals. Jikken Dobutsu 1988;37:341-5.  Back to cited text no. 16
    
17.
UNICEF for Every Child. Cleaning and Hygiene Tips to Help Keep the COVID-19 Virus Out of Your Home. Available from: https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/cleaning-and-hygiene-tips-help-keep-coronavirus-covid-19-out-your-home. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 26].  Back to cited text no. 17
    
18.
FDA. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Shopping for Food during the COVID-19 Pandemic - Information for Consumers. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/shopping-food-during-covid-19-pandemic-information-consumers. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 26].  Back to cited text no. 18
    
19.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Handwashing: Clean Hands and Save Lives. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 26].  Back to cited text no. 19
    
20.
World Health Organization. Updated WHO Advice for International Traffic in Relation to the Outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/articles-detail/updated-who-advice-for-international-traffic-in-relation-to-the-outbreak-of-the-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-24-jan. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 26].  Back to cited text no. 20
    


    Figures

  [Figure 1]
 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2]



 

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