Can coronavirus spread through food products?

This is a lingering question that arises in many minds especially during the pandemic. Various companies have taken advantage of this fear and have started advertising food cleaners for cleaning food but the real question that arises is does the virus spread through food?


Corona virus spreads through droplets transmitted when a person coughs, sneezes or talks. Air borne spread can occur if the droplets linger in the air for some time.

Packaged food or containers: Packaged foods if touched by an infected person are likely to spread the infection. Hence no contact delivery maybe undertaken by some hotels/restaurants to lessen the transmission. It is important to wash hands for atleast 20 seconds after coming in contact with the food containers bought from outside.

Vegetables/Fruits: It is unlikely that the virus can be transmitted through food especially if it has been heated. WHO’s Dr. Margaret Harris recommends washing foods before consumption irrespective of whether the food has been loose or packaged. According to a professor and food safety specialist from North Carolina State University though, coronavirus is unlikely to spread through food as the virus needs a living body to survive.


The virus though might be introduced if the foods are coughed, sneezed or touched by an infected person. Hence it is important to wash or sanitize our hands as well as clean the vegetables/fruits properly. Also wash the bag, your clothes and take a bath after coming back from shopping.

Frozen foods: Frozen foods was found to be carriers of the virus as evidenced from an incident that occurred at wholesale market at Beijing, where the virus was detected at a cutting board used for importing salmon. Although since July 2020, nine such incidents have reported to find the virus on imported foods. In August 12th local authorities in China had found the virus on a frozen chicken wing which was imported from Brazil. These incidents can be attributed to poor hygiene practices and contaminated water usage. According to a research published in Elsevier, continuous low temperatures can create a favourable atmosphere for prolonging survival of the virus. The chances of infection spreading through foods are pretty low and not much evidence has been found.

Utensils/packaging material: According to U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH), corona virus can stay upto 4 hrs on copper, 24hrs on cardboard and upto 3 days in stainless steel and plastic materials.

Water: No evidence has been found of the virus spreading through water.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Wash foods gently with water and use a scrubber or a brush in case of hard foods like cucumber, potatoes, etc.
  • Do not use chemicals, bleach, soap, sanitizer, alcohol, disinfectant to clean foods.
  • Refrigerate foods within 2 hrs of purchase especially the perishables.
  • Regularly wash and sanitize kitchen surfaces.
  • Clean and sanitize the food packagings or the surfaces where the packages had been kept before (eg: plastic bags).

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