The latest news suggests that proofs of the coronavirus were found on food packaging in China. These were packages containing frozen chicken wings and shrimps imported from South America. Now, this incident is raising questions about whether virus transmission is possible via food packaging. The main problems that are coming up at present are whether supermarket deliveries and takeaways are safe enough? Besides, what are the odds that there will be a transmission?
Theoretically, there is a risk of catching coronavirus from food packages. Moreover, laboratory experts suggest that the virus can survive on some of the packaging materials. For example, coronavirus can survive on several types of plastic and cardboard for quite a few hours, if not days. Moreover, since we are talking about frozen food, it is evident that coronavirus stays more stable at lower temperatures. Besides, freezing is a conventional method when food transportation takes place. However, there is a group of scientists who are still doubting the theory. According to them, the validation of the fact will only happen if the same method can be proved outside of a laboratory. Moreover, Dr. Julian Tang, associate professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester, explains that the outside world’s conditions are different.
In this case, the environmental factors change quite rapidly, and there are low chances that the virus cannot survive for a long time. On the other hand, a microbiology professor at Rutgers University, Emanuel Goldman, highlights the procedure adopted by scientists. They have utilized around 10 million virus particles as samples. However, if you take an example of an aerosol droplet, it only consists of about 100 particles. Therefore, Goldman writes in the Lancet that there are negligible chances of transmission via inanimate surfaces.
Is food packaging the real cause of transmission?
Transmission is only possible if infected individual sneezes or coughs on a surface. Later, someone else touches it. The question that arises now is how the transmission happens. Well, transmission risk usually occurs when the workers in a food packaging touch contaminated surfaces. They come at a risk of the virus when after touching the surface, they further touch their nose, eyes, or mouth. However, scientists feel that this is not the root cause of transmission.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the US Health Agency experts touching of surfaces is one of the reasons for transmission. Still, it is not the primary factor. They are suggesting that a primary goal is always a direct person to person spread. So, for example, two people come in close contact with each other (less than 6ft or 2m), and one of them is already infected. In this case, the other person comes in close contact with the virus and may soon catch it. Now, that happens when the infected person coughs or sneezes. Besides, it gets worse when the droplets from his nose or mouth enter that of the healthy person. Therefore, it is usually difficult for people to catch coronavirus from food packaging.
According to Dr. Tang, it is essential to investigate whether a person has had any other form of exposure, before concluding that it has happened from a food package.
Is there a way of staying safe?
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), there is no single cause of COVID-19 where transmission occurs via food packaging or food. However, there is a shortlist of precautions that you can adopt to stay safe from cross-contamination. One of the points in the lists suggests that even if you do not sanitize a food package separately, you must clean your hands after handling the package. Besides, washing hands before eating is a standard precaution.