Can Coronavirus Disease 2019 be transmitted through Food?

Dear Friends and Families of IMC,

I am sure during this period of crisis; there is a major question on everyone’s minds:

Can Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) be transmitted through food?
Is it safe to continue importing IMC Organic Coconut Sugar or dry foods into my country?

Firstly, What is Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

According to the FDA:

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. There are many types of human coronaviruses, including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Next, how does COVID-19 spread?

According to CDC:

The main routes of transmissions are:

  1. Symptomatic person-to-person spread (Primary method)
    • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest)
    • People who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)
    • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person cough or sneezes
    • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  2. Spreading from asymptomatic people
    • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
  3. Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects
    • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

So Is COVID-19 transmitted through food supply?

According to:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

Is food imported to the United States from China and other countries affected by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), at risk of spreading COVID-19?

Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.

Can I get sick with COVID-19 from touching food, the food packaging, or food contact surfaces, if the coronavirus was present on it?

Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.  Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill

  • Clean: Wash Hands, Utensils, and Surfaces Often
  • Separate: Don’t Cross Contaminate
  • Cook to the Right Temperature
  • Chill: Refrigerate and Freeze Food Properly

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):

“There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.”

EFSA’s chief scientist, Marta Hugas, said: “Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.”

German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR):

Are there other possible transmission methods?

There are currently no cases which have shown any evidence of humans being infected with the new type of coronavirus by another method, such as via the consumption of contaminated food or via contact with contaminated articles. There are also no known reports for other coronaviruses about infections due to food or contact with dry surfaces. Transmission via surfaces which have recently been contaminated with viruses is, nonetheless, possible through smear infections. However, this is only likely to occur during a short period after contamination, due to the relatively low stability of coronaviruses in the environment.

Can imported goods from regions where the disease has spread be sources of an infection in humans?

Due to the transmission methods recorded thus far, and the relatively low environmental stability of coronaviruses, it is unlikely that imported goods such as imported foods or consumer goods and toys, tools, computers, clothes or shoes may be sources of an infection with the new type of coronavirus, according to the current state of knowledge. 

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ):

“Can the virus be transmitted through food?
Transmission through food is unlikely and there is no evidence of this occurring with COVID-19 to date, however investigations into how the virus spreads are continuing.” 

Our thoughts:

Do we feel that COVID-19 is transmitted through food supply?

Based on scientific evidence up to date (and referring to established authorities above), there is no significant indication that COVID-19 can be transmitted through dry foods or for that matter – through IMC Organic Coconut Sugar.

Going one step further, what about transmission by air or on bulk packaging surfaces in my container?

While COVID-19 can theoretically be transmitted by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes, that is not thought to be its primary mode of transmission.

Unlike foodborne viruses (like norovirus), which can lasts for weeks on surface and survive freezing and heating, very little is known on COVID-19. Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institutes of Health, attempted to recreate the scenario of the coronavirus from an infected person onto everyday surfaces to estimate how long the virus would remain on such surfaces. The tests revealed that COVID-19 was “detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.”  Additionally, the study found the stability of COVID-19 seems similar to that of the earlier SARS virus.

Another study submitted at the start of the year when testing past coronaviruses (apart from COVID-19), concluded that human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces for up to 9 days. In summary, we still feel that importing of food is considered a very low risk of such spreading as the stability of COVID-19 is highly likely to be a few hours or at most a few days – very much shorter than the transit timings to most countries. Therefore, by the time it reaches most ports and clear customs, the virus would most likely have degraded and the quantity of infectious particles would have gone down exponentially over time!

Read more about the measures that IMC has put in place to strengthen our supply chain.

Together we will overcome this fight against COVID-19! 

– Your Fellow Organic Coconut Sugar Lover –