Facts about Seafood and Coronavirus

Seafood Remains Safe & Healthy During the Pandemic.

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 scientists and public health professionals from the U.S. and around the world. Here’s what they have to say about seafood and the coronavirus.

1. Can I get coronavirus from eating seafood?

“True then. True still today. There is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Frank Yiannas
Deputy Commissioner
Food Policy & Response
U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

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.”

“People should not fear food, or food packaging or processing or delivery of food. There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus. And people should feel comfortable and safe.”

World Health Organization Head of Emergencies Programme Mike Ryan

German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment: “There are currently no cases which have shown evidence of humans being infected with the new type of coronavirus via the consumption of contaminated food. There is also currently no reliable evidence of transmission of the virus via contact with contaminated objects or contaminated surfaces, which would have led to subsequent human infections.”

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.”

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

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.”

CDC: “The risk of infection by the virus from food products, food packaging, or bags is thought to be very low. Currently, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags.”

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.”

International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods: “Despite the many billions of meals consumed and food packages handled since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, to date there has not been any evidence that food, food packaging or food handling is a source or important transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 resulting in COVID-19.”

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.”

3. Certain countries have suggested new cases were introduced to their nations from food imports. Is this true?

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

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention: “An official at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control said there was no evidence that salmon was the host – or even an intermediate host – for the virus. Shi Guoqing, deputy director of the CDC’s emergency response centre, said there was no trace of the virus on the salmon before it reached the market – suggesting the virus was present in the market, rather than in the salmon itself.”

“The overwhelmingly higher and most significant mode of disease transmission is through exchange or release of respiratory droplets laden with the virus, with transmission facilitated by close contact to an infected individual actively shedding the virus. Expending resources on unsubstantiated foodborne routes threatens our efforts to focus on control strategies we know work against respiratory spread.”

Dr. Lee-Ann Jaykus, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor, Food Science, North Carolina State University

4. 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.”

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.”

“Benjamin Chapman, a professor 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.”

5. 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.”

Dr. Sanjay Gummalla: “It is highly unlikely that the virus could be transmitted from consumption of, or contact with, frozen foods. For that to happen, a person would need to consume food contaminated with viral particles, then the virus would have to reach the respiratory tract, and infection would result only if an amount equal to the infective dose happened to come into contact with the right cells to initiate virus infection. Alternatively, a person would have to handle contaminated food with their hands, then transfer the virus by touching the nasal region or eyes, and again infection would result only if a sufficient amount of virus gained entry to the individual’s respiratory tract.  Frankly, all the stars would have to align for such a sequence of events to occur.” 

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

No.

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.”

7. 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 those products 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.”

8. 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.”

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.”

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

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 this addition resource:

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have released joint coronavirus-related interim guidance for employers and workers performing seafood processing operations in onshore facilities and aboard vessels offshore. The guidance includes recommended actions employers can take to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

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