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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #376647

Research Project: Characterization and Mitigation of Bacterial Pathogens in the Fresh Produce Production and Processing Continuum

Location: Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory

Title: Coronaviruses – potential human threat from foodborne transmission?

Author
item THIPPAREDDI, HARSHAVARDHAN - University Of Georgia
item BALAMURUGAN, S. - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item Patel, Jitu
item MANPREET, SINGH - University Of Georgia
item BRASSARD, JULIE - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada

Submitted to: LWT - Food Science and Technology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/31/2020
Publication Date: 9/1/2020
Citation: Thippareddi, H., Balamurugan, S., Patel, J.R., Manpreet, S., Brassard, J. 2020. Coronaviruses – potential human threat from foodborne transmission?. LWT - Food Science and Technology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2020.110147.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2020.110147

Interpretive Summary: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted worldwide in terms of number of illnesses, death, and long term consequences of disease besides significant changes in our day-to-day lives. The virus is generally spread from person and person through respiratory droplet; currently there is no evidence of COVID-19 infection via consumption of food. There is a potential for infection by touching contaminated surfaces and subsequent touching to face; however, this may not be the main route of infection. At least 43,000 employees working in food sector (farm, food processing, and meat packing) have been infected working in ca. 500 food processing/packing or farm setting. Survival of the virus on fresh foods (animal based foods, produce or others) could depend on the intrinsic and extrinsic properties of the specific foods and antimicrobial interventions applied at various stages of production. Traditional lethality steps such as pasteurization and use of antimicrobials are effective in causing loss of infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 virus. Further, operational changes, preventive measures, and effective sanitation regimes significantly reduce the risk of foodborne spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Technical Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has extensive impact worldwide in terms of number of illnesses, deaths and long-term sequelae to the affected. While the main route for the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is person to person from respiratory droplets, survival of the virus in the air and its ability to infect subsequently have raised concerns of the airborne spread. COVID-19 outbreaks in meat and other food processing plants raise concern for potential of foodborne spread. We focus on the infectivity of the virus in the food subjected to various unit operations during processing, storage and distribution and the disease risk to consumers. While the risk of contamination of food products is significant due to survival of the virus in the air (prevailing temperature and relative humidity conditions) in food processing operations if preventive measures are not followed, survival of the virus on fresh foods (animal based foods, produce or others) is dependent on the intrinsic and extrinsic properties of the specific foods and antimicrobial interventions applied at various stages of production. Traditional lethality steps such as pasteurization and use of antimicrobials such as halogens, organic and mineral acids and oxidants are effective in causing loss of infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 virus. Even if the virus remains infective on contaminated foods, maintenance of infectivity after ingestion of food and subsequent invasion of tissue has not been reported. An alternate route of infection from contaminated foods can be during handling of foods and subsequent spread of the virus to other surfaces such as face, nose, leading to infection. However, due to the extensive treatments foods receive during processing, often inhospitable environs of the food products and further food preparation prior to consumption significantly reduce the risk of foodborne spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.