Can COVID-19 (coronavirus) be passed on through food?
There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is passed on through food.
Coronaviruses need a host (animal or human) to grow in and cannot grow in food. Thorough cooking is expected to kill the virus.
Is there a risk to consumers from ‘open’ food?
As usual, it is important to maintain good hygiene practices around open food (e.g. unpackaged bread, cakes etc.).
However, it is possible that infected food workers and/or consumers could introduce the virus to food, by coughing and sneezing, or through hand contact. It is therefore important that they strictly follow good personal hygiene practices. Customers and food businesses are expected to behave in a hygienic manner and food business are obliged to monitor such displays.
Food is not directly involved in the transmission of COVID-19. The main risk of transmission is from close contact with infected people. Hence the advice to public and staff alike is to wash your hands.
What can food workers do?
It is possible that infected food workers could introduce virus to the food they are working on, or onto surfaces within the food business, by coughing and sneezing, or through hand contact, unless they strictly follow good personal hygiene practices.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that standard recommendations to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are maintained. These include:
- proper hand hygiene
- cough/cold hygiene practices
- safe food practices
- avoiding close contact, when possible, with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing
In addition, the HSE are advising ‘social distancing’ to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
Food workers must wash hands:
- before starting work
- after coughing, sneezing or blowing nose
- before handling cooked or ready-to-eat food
- after handling or preparing raw food
- after handling waste
- after cleaning duties
- after using the toilet
- after eating, drinking or smoking
- after handling money
What can food business owners/managers do?
Where employees must attend work it is recommended that social distancing is implemented to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
However, food business owners (FBOs) should remember that they have particular responsibilities under food law and must maintain proper hygiene practices at all times.
They should, in general:
- ensure that staff are trained appropriately in food hygiene
- ensure effective supervision of staff to reinforce hygienic practices
- provide the correct facilities e.g. hand washing, toilets, to enable staff to practice good hygiene
- ensure staff and contractors report any physical signs/symptoms, before commencing work or while in the workplace.
- keep vigilant and ensure that staff are not ill and are fit to work