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Transmission of COVID-19 by food and food packaging

​​Last updated: September 2021

The World health Organization (WHO) advises that there is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging. The WHO considers that further investigation is needed into the origin and spread of COVID-19, including any possible role of frozen food and packaging.

Transmission through food

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease spreading from person to person. It’s not a foodborne disease. There’s no evidence to suggest people will get infected by swallowing the virus in, or on, food or drink.

Research has shown that the virus is inactivated in the acidic environment of the stomach, and is unlikely to reach the gastrointestinal tract and cause illness. Read more on the US National Library of Medicine National Health Institutes of Health website.

The International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) has also concluded that there is no documented evidence that food is a significant source or vehicle for transmission of COVID-19. Read more about the ICMSF opinion on SARS-C0V-2 and its relationship to food safety.

The main risk of transmission is from close contact with infected people. The best approach is to practise social distancing and to maintain good personal hygiene at all times. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water and avoid touching your face to reduce risk of infection.

Transmission from food packaging

Food packaging hasn’t presented any specific risk of transmission. It’s not yet confirmed how long the virus survives or remains detectable on surfaces. Studies suggest it may be a few hours or up to several weeks. This depends on the type of surface, temperature and humidity of the environment.

There remains no known cases of anyone contracting COVID-19 from food or food packaging. We are aware that the COVID-19 virus and traces of its genetic material have been detected in China on imported food products and packaging. The WHO has recommended further investigation of frozen food and packaging as a potential source of transmission. Two ICMSF members and co-authors reviewed the scientific literature on food safety and its linkage to SARS-CoV-2, and concluded that the overall risk of acquiring COVID-19 from contaminated food or food packaging is very low. Read more about SARS-CoV-2 and risks to food safety.

We will continue to monitor and assess evidence in relation to the potential transmission of COVID-19 from food or food packaging and consider its implications for our current advice.

If you are concerned, surfaces can be sanitised with common household disinfectants such as alcohol-based sanitiser or bleach.

Washing fruit and vegetables

Wash fresh fruit and vegetables under running water before eating. Don’t use soap, disinfectants or detergents to wash your food. These cleaning products aren’t designed for human consumption. They may actually be unsafe to use with food.

Safety of meat

It's suspected COVID-19 may have originated in animals. It's not likely transmission to humans occurs through consumption of meat.

The WHO recommends that foods such as meat, poultry and eggs should always be thoroughly cooked; raw animal products should be handled with care to avoid cross-contamination; and meat from diseased animals should not be eaten.

In Australia all meat sold is subject to strict controls. These include requirements prohibiting the use of meat and offal from diseased animals for human consumption. It's unlikely that you need to take extra precautions for meat in Australia to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

We always recommend good food safety practices when handling any food.​

Read more topics on Novel Coronavirus and Food Safety.


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