With the flurry of news stories recently from China, New Zealand and elsewhere speculating, without proof, that there could be a link between novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) transmission and food packaging, trade associations and government bodies including the FDA are reiterating that is no scientific basis to support such notions. Among the international trade groups, the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) has played an active role in developing resources to help its membership navigate the Covid-19 crisis.
“GCCA and our member companies have worked tirelessly to protect the safety of our workers and the products that they handle. These efforts are vital to ensuring that people across the globe have access to the safest, highest quality food possible,” stated President and CEO Matt Ott on August 18.
Companies throughout each link of the global cold chain are following industry best practices and health professional guidance to protect workers and consumers, assured Tot. Employees are outfitted with personal protective equipment (PPE) to maintain their health and safety in a cold environment. Companies are also conducting health screenings, instituting social distancing measures and routinely sanitizing facilities.
Cold storage facilities have implemented measures to control risks that might be associated with workers who are ill regardless of the type of virus or bacteria. It is also important to note that most products stored in temperature-controlled warehouses are in multilayered packaging and not handled directly by employees, limiting the risk of community spread from food products.
Leading public health organizations continue to affirm that It is highly unlikely that people can contract Covid-19 from food or food packaging. Covid-19 is a respiratory illness and the primary transmission route is through person-to-person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that there is no evidence to date of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses being transmitted via food or food packaging. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the risk of infection by the virus from food products, food packaging, or bags is thought to be very low. CDC also states that currently, no cases of Covid-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging or shopping bags.
Throughout the pandemic, the GCCA has relied on its Scientific Advisory Council (SAC), a panel of industry experts and scientists, for best practices and guidance. Dr. Donald W. Schaffer of Rutgers University, an expert in microbiology and SAC member, has recently conducted studies on the survivability of virus on surfaces.
“Based on the science related to the survivability of the Covid-19 virus on surfaces and that fact that this is a respiratory illness, primarily transmitted person-to-person, the risk of infection through contact with food packaging is extremely low,” said Schaffer.
“GCCA commends its members for their tireless work to ensure that consumers across the globe continue to have access to safe, high-quality food during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Ott. “As a result of their continued efforts, the food supply chain has remained strong and resilient despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.”
More information on the cold chain industry’s response to Covid-19 can be found online.