A second major study has failed to find any evidence food products or packaging are transmission routes for Covid-19.

The study was conducted by Drs Joanne Kingsbury and Rob Lake at ESR on behalf of the New Zealand Food Safety Science & Research Centre (NZFSSRC). It was designed to assess any evidence from New Zealand or overseas on possible foodborne transmission of the virus.

It concludes: “There is still no evidence that food is a source or a transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 [Covid-19], and there is very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.  Normal intestinal conditions (stomach acid and bile salts) are thought to inactivate SARS-CoV-2.  Although significant Covid-19 outbreaks have occurred at food processing facilities and among food service workers, transmission has not been attributed to the food products or packaging.  Instead, person-to-person transmission exacerbated by the work environment that places workers at increased risk of exposure has been considered the cause.  There are relatively few reports of SARS-CoV-2 virus being detected on food and packaging …”
The study has been welcomed by FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich, who says it backs up earlier thinking on the issue.

“This is particularly important news for New Zealand’s food exporters. It’s more ammunition in case it’s ever needed to argue against future restrictions of our products into overseas markets.”

The study also says: “In our opinion the best practice for reducing the risk of contamination of food products or packaging continues to be managing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection amongst workers.  This includes workers informing their employer, self-isolating, seeking medical advice and getting a Covid-19 test if they have any symptoms of Covid-19 and/or respiratory illness. Employers can promote and implement good personal hygiene practices for all workers”

In September last year, a study by the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) came to a similar conclusion.

As reported by NZFGC at the time, that study said: “Despite the billions of meals consumed and food packages handled since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, to date there has not been any evidence that food, food packaging, or food handling is a source or important transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 resulting in Covid-19.”

It said because of that, restricting food imports or asking for Covid-free statements, as some countries are doing, is “not scientifically justified.”

The commission examined latest scientific and technical insights concerning Covid-19 and food and food supply chains, and, like the ESR report, said there were relatively few reports of the virus being found on ingredients, products, or packaging materials. It said though virus particles had been reported to survive for hours to days on surfaces, “the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces appears to be very small.”

Read more on the ESR study

Read our report on the ICMSF study