Contracting COVID-19 From Food or Food Packaging Is Unlikely, According to WHO

Even if this lemon is caked in coronavirus pathogens (which is unlikely), she'll be fine as long as she washes her hands.
Even if this lemon is caked in coronavirus pathogens (which is unlikely), she'll be fine as long as she washes her hands. / Anna Shvets, Pexels

If the coronavirus pandemic has made you uneasy about filling your fridge and pantry with possibly contaminated groceries, you’re not alone. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), your chances of catching COVID-19 from food or its packaging are negligible.

As CNN reports, officials in China confirmed last week that some frozen chicken wings shipped from Brazil had tested positive for COVID-19, causing people to eye their own poultry products warily. Now, people who may have handled the contaminated packs of wings have been tested, too, and none of those tests has been positive so far. Furthermore, it’s possible that the original tests were picking up dead coronavirus particles and registering false positives.

When asked about the issue at a WHO press conference on Thursday, August 13, experts essentially told everybody not to worry. According to Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead epidemiologist for COVID-19, China has tested several hundred thousand food products and found the novel coronavirus on fewer than 10. And even if you were to pick up a contaminated product, the pathogens would only get the chance to enter your body if you then touched your face. In other words, you can further mitigate the risk by washing your hands consistently and keeping them away from your face.

Van Kerkhove also mentioned that there are no known cases where someone contracted COVID-19 as a foodborne illness; i.e. by eating food that was contaminated with the germs. And just like other viruses, the novel coronavirus can be killed by cooking your food.

“People should not fear food or food packaging, or the processing or delivery of food. Food is very important, and I would hate to think that we would create an impression that there’s a problem with our food or there’s a problem with our food chains,” added Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program. “There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus, and people should feel comfortable and feel safe.”

[h/t CNN]