Facts about Seafood and Coronavirus

The coronavirus is not related to seafood.

Seafood is a vital part of a healthy diet and remains a safe, smart choice at grocery stores and restaurants. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2-3 servings of seafood per week. Do not stop eating seafood.

Frequently Asked Questions:

At a time like this, it’s more important than ever to listen to public health professionals, from the U.S. and around the world. Here’s what they have to say about seafood and coronavirus.

1. Should seafood be tested to ensure it doesn’t contain coronavirus?

No, coronavirus is not a foodborne illness.

World Health Organization: “As food has not been implicated in the transmission of COVID-19, testing of food or food surfaces for this virus is not recommended.”

FDA: “Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness and not gastrointestinal illness, and foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.”

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: “Despite the hypothesis that the virus may have originated in bats and infected another animal used for food, there is no evidence of continued transmission of the virus from animals to humans through the food chain.”

2. Can I get coronavirus from seafood?

FDA: “Again, we want to reassure the public that at this time there is no evidence that food or food packaging have been associated with transmission and no reason to be concerned.”

Stephen M. Hahn M.D.
Commissioner of Food and Drugs
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The European Food Safety Authority’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: “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 imported toys.”

3. Should I avoid seafood products from China?

FDA: “There is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods, including food and drugs for humans and pets, and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. associated with imported goods.”

WHO: “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”

CDC: “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”

4. Is coronavirus in seafood products?

There is no evidence coronavirus can spread through any food products.

Joint statement from FDA and USDA: “…efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission.”

“Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, explained that because the mode of infection is primarily respiratory, the chance of getting COVID-19 from food is extremely low. ‘In fact, we don’t see evidence of any respiratory viruses being transmitted through food in the past,’ he said.”

FDA: “We want to reassure consumers that there is currently no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This particular coronavirus causes respiratory illness and is spread from person-to-person, unlike foodborne gastrointestinal or GI viruses, such as norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food.”

5. Did eating seafood start the coronavirus epidemic?

No. The CDC believes the origin of the virus is from (live) animal-to-person spread. Many foods were present at the live animal market believed to be at the epicenter of the first outbreak, but it is not suggested that eating products from that market caused the spread.

CDC: “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people.”

CDC: “Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States.”

6. Is the government still inspecting seafood facilities overseas?

Seafood companies in the U.S. and globally adhere to the same strict food safety regulations.  While FDA has suspended overseas inspection through 30 April, seafood from all sources will remain safe.  FDA continues to screen and monitor shipments as they enter the United States. As of 12 March, there is no indication that FDA will reduce “mission essential” border inspections.  

FDA: “When we are temporarily not able to physically inspect foreign produced FDA-regulated products or manufacturers, as an interim measure we employ additional tools to ensure the safety of products imported to the U.S., which have proved effective in the past. These include denying entry of unsafe products into the U.S., physical examinations and/or product sampling at our borders, reviewing a firm’s previous compliance history, using information sharing from foreign governments as part of mutual recognition…”

7. Can I get coronavirus from touching refrigerated or frozen seafood packaging?

CDC: “Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.”

CDC: “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”

8. If an infected consumer picks up a package of seafood and puts it back, is the next person to touch it likely to get coronavirus?

CDC: “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.”

WHO: “You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
    Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
    Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
    Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.”

9. Does cooking food to a certain heat kill coronavirus?

Food Safety Authority of Ireland: “Coronaviruses need a host (animal or human) to grow in and cannot grow in food. Thorough cooking is expected to kill the virus because we know that a heat treatment of at least 30min at 60ºC (140ºF) is effective with SARS.”

CDC: “Ensure good food safety practices at all times. Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.”

German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment: “Although it is unlikely that the virus will be transmitted via contaminated food or imported products, general everyday hygiene rules, such as regular hand washing, and hygiene rules for food preparation should be observed when handling them. As the viruses are sensitive to heat, the risk of infection can also be further reduced by heating foods.”

10. Are certain species or types of seafood more risky than others?

No food products, including seafood, are considered a risk of the spread of coronavirus. If you’re concerned, cooking seafood products is an additional safety option.

FDA: “Again, we want to reassure the public that at this time there is no evidence that food or food packaging have been associated with transmission and no reason to be concerned.”

11. Is it safe to dine at seafood restaurants?

The food service industry follows strict local public health guidelines. To meet these guidelines, restaurants have safety protocols and best practices in place.

NRA: “State and local governments are taking steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus in communities across the country. In some places that means they are placing new restrictions on how and when restaurants can operate business. For information on the latest in your community, contact your governor’s office or state health department.

Washington Post “[NRA] says diners should take comfort in the fact that restaurants have been meeting food safety and sanitation standards for decades, so they already have protocols in place.”

12. Are workers in the food sector considered part of the essential critical infrastructure workforce?  

FDA: “Yes, in a guidance issued by Department of Homeland Security on March 19 Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19, workers in the Food and Agriculture sector – agricultural production, food processing, distribution, retail and food service and allied industries – are named as essential critical infrastructure workers. Promoting the ability of our workers within the food and agriculture industry to continue to work during periods of community restrictions, social distances, and closure orders, among others, is crucial to community continuity and community resilience.”

Association of Food and Drug Officials: Coronvairus Resource Page

13. What can seafood companies do to ensure a safe and healthy workplace?

Seafood companies are not high risk businesses for transmitting coronavirus. Many business practices recommended by the U.S. government to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, such as cleaning surfaces, employee handwashing protocols, respiratory etiquette, and allowing and encouraging sick employees to stay home, are already in place in seafood processing facilities due to the sanitation requirements in the Seafood HACCP regulation. To help employers plan, prepare and potentially respond to coronavirus, the U.S. government has a few resources:

CDC: “The following interim guidance may help prevent workplace exposures to acute respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, in non-healthcare settings. The guidance also provides planning considerations if there are more widespread, community outbreaks of COVID-19.”

OSHA: “Employers and workers should use this planning guidance to help identify risk levels in workplace settings and to determine any appropriate control measures to implement.”

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