COVID-19

COVID-19 and Food Safety

COVID-19, caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus, is a respiratory disease. Current evidence suggests that transmission of COVID-19 occurs primarily through the respiratory droplets of infected people, which are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings. These respiratory droplets can reach the eyes, nose or mouth of a susceptible person directly or indirectly (via contaminated surfaces), resulting in infection. Airborne transmission of the virus can occur in health care settings where aerosol-generating procedures are performed. While there have been limited reports of airborne transmission outside of health care settings internationally, its role and extent are under further study.
 
SFA is aware of reports from Chinese authorities on detecting the nucleic acid (genetic material) of the COVID-19 virus in some food and food packaging imported from various countries. We are also aware of experimental studies on the potential survival of the COVID-19 virus on various types of food under laboratory conditions. We are monitoring such reports and studies closely.
 
Current state of knowledge across scientific communities and public health authorities worldwide is that the COVID-19 virus is not transmitted to humans via food.  COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and is transmitted human-to-human via respiratory droplets and contact. SFA will continue to monitor developments closely, evaluate new scientific evidence, and promptly take any necessary actions to safeguard food safety in Singapore.
 
The environment that we interact with can be contaminated with the COVID-19 virus. Hence, there is a possibility of fomite transmission when the mucosa of the eyes, nose or mouth of individuals come into contact with contaminated surfaces. Contact with food, food packaging or food contact materials is no different from contact with other  surfaces and the environment (e.g. common touch surfaces such as lift buttons, door knobs, etc). What is important to reduce the risk of infections of COVID-19 due to contact with any contaminated surfaces is to adopt good public and personal hygiene practices.
 
The COVID-19 virus is transmitted primarily by people. As such, SFA continues to emphasise the importance of good public and personal hygiene practices to uphold a high level of public health standards in Singapore. These include:

 

  • Seeking medical attention promptly and staying home if unwell;
  • Washing hands with soap and water regularly, including before eating or handling food and after going to the toilet;
  • Avoid touching your face with your hands;
  • Covering mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing/sneezing, and throwing the tissue away into a bin immediately; and
  • Not sharing food/drinks with others.
In addition, SFA continues to emphasise that people preparing foods should observe the following:
  • Not engaging in any food handling/preparation if unwell;
  • Cooking food thoroughly;
  • Keeping hot food above 60°C;
  • Washing hands with soap and water regularly and using clean disposable gloves when handling food;
  • Storing and handling raw and cooked/ready-to-eat food separately;
  • Covering food properly to prevent contamination; and
  • Maintaining frequent washing and sanitising of all food contact surfaces, and touchpoints including counter tops, utensils, and condiment containers.
The guidelines for environmental cleaning and disinfection are available on NEA’s website.