There is no evidence food, food packaging, or food handling are a source or transmission route for the Covid-19 virus, according to a study by the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods.

It says: “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.”

And in a boost for major food exporting countries like New Zealand, it says 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 says there are relatively few reports of the virus being found on ingredients, products, or packaging materials.

The issue of possible contamination of food surfaces was highlighted in Auckland recently when workers at a cool store contracted the virus, and there was speculation it could have come in on packaging from Melbourne, where the virus was rampant at that time. This was later ruled out

The commission says though virus particles have been reported to survive for hours to days on surfaces, “the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces appears to be very small.”

It does say, however, it’s prudent to emphasise to food producers, manufacturers, and handlers the importance of using good food hygiene practices to minimise any possibility of food or food contact surfaces as a vector for the virus.

The study has been welcomed by FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich, who says it backs up earlier thinking on the issue.

“This is an important opinion by an esteemed organisation. It’s particularly important for our food exporters who [have faced/could face in the future] restrictions on goods into some countries because of Covid-19. We would like to think this opinion will count when it comes to food import considerations.

“New Zealand’s reputation as one of the top suppliers of quality food to the world is built on its no-compromise attitude to hygiene and food safety, and that has not changed – except to add extra layers to account for this particularly infectious virus.”

Read the commission’s report here