Food Safety During and After the Era of COVID-19 Pandemic
The Potential COVID-19 Transmission via Food Products
Foodservice operators were in frontline employment sectors experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, till today there is no report stating that COVID-19 spreads via food products. Further, there is no proof available showing that viruses which infect the respiratory tract can be spread via food or food packaging. There are no cases reported still regarding spread of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV through the consumption of food. However, it has been reported that human coronavirus survived for at least 5 days on the surfaces of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyfluorotetraethylene (Teflon, PTFE), glass, ceramic tiles, and stainless steel and for 3 days on silicon rubber surfaces at 21°C with a relative humidity of 30–40%. Similarly, SARS-CoV-2 survived on stainless steel and plastic up to 2 and 3 days, respectively, at 21–23°C and a relative humidity of 40%; however, the virus was not detected on copper and cardboard, after 4 and 24 h, respectively. These results show that COVID-19 can be spread via contact surfaces because of the ability of the virus to survive on the surfaces for several days.
Coronaviruses can last for long periods in environmental samples which may increase the chance of getting infected via package contact surfaces.
The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] (2020) gave guidelines for consumers during food shopping, food handling and food preparation. All the food handlers including food establishment employees and consumers should perform all the mentioned guidelines. There should be proper sanitation and hygienic practice followed to avoid spread of covid-19 virus.
The Potential Survival of SARS-COV-2 in Food Products
It is broadly known that viruses cannot increase in food products because they need an animal or human host to grow. However, till today, no study has investigated the survival of covid in foods. But only two studies reported the survival of infectious respiratory viruses in food products. Adenovirus survived on lettuce and strawberries at 4°C for up to 10 days. Coronavirus survived only 2 days on lettuce, and it did not survive on strawberries. These results displayed that respiratory virus may transfer from food surfaces to the hands and to the mouth, nose or eyes. The survival of coronavirus in different types of milk (camel, goat and cow milk) at 4 or 22°C has been investigated. Virus’s concentrations were decreased by less than 1 log in all types of milk after 72 hours at 4°Celcius. Higher reductions were noticed during milk stored at 22°C since the virus concentration reduced by ≤ 2.0 log with 48 hours of storage. Low temperature (63°C/30 min) of raw milk completely eliminated the virus from the milk of the three different animals.
The chance of infection in case of most respiratory viruses is low; hence, the consumption of food products could represent a risk for infection.So, it is advised to follow all the preventive measures such as sanitizing and maintain good personal hygiene among workers are some ways to reduce risk of spreading of virus.
Need for Food Hygiene Practices from Farm to Fork
As we know according to studies, corona virus has an ability to stay alive for up to 72 hours as a virion on inanimate objects after completing its life cycle in the body of an infected person. Therefore, if the respiratory discharges of the COVID-19 patient come in contact with food, the food items can become a carrier, and if these items come in touch with other infected individuals, the virus is more likely to enter their respiratory system.
The surfaces of utensils, packaging material, counters, conveyor belts, vehicles, and all other food work stations where there might be human contact with food should be properly disinfected and performing all precaution is very important to avoid spreading of coronavirus.
Steps to be taken for Food Industry
All food industry organizations should strictly follow the precaution for Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) given by authorities based on HACCP principles.In, food companies where HACCP protocols are not being implemented, an expert should be appointed who is in contact with public health authorities to take advice during the pandemic situation. Hand washing stations should be kept for the workforce with normal soap, warm running water, hand sanitizers, and posters should be displayed informing all the information regarding effective hand washing and sanitizing. The physical distancing of 6 feet should be maintained among workers as infected people may remain asymptomatic or be pre-symptomatic during the course of the disease and may spread the infection when close to others.