COVID-19 Transmission: Research Finds That Food Products Are Potential SARS-CoV-2 Carriers
: Despite constant denials by the WHO and also the U.S. CDC due to lobbying from powerful food conglomerates and interest groups, more emerging studies are showing that food products including frozen seafood and meat supplies can be potential carriers of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Food Control. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713520306708
To date, the various transmission modes of SARS-CoV-2 have not been completely determined. SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent that causes the COVID-19 disease, spreads primarily through respiratory droplets. In some cases, airborne transmission is possible. Now however some scientists believe that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can spread through food products.
Research scientists from the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and the Food Safety Research Center in Iran has emphasized the risk of various staple food products, including meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and ready-to-eat foods, as potential carriers of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
The presence of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA in feces of several patients shows the possibility of their fecal-oral route spread. Besides, people with gastric problems, including gastric intestinal metaplasia and atrophic gastritis, may be susceptible to this kind of COVID-19 infection.
Food may act as a potential vehicle of SARS-CoV-2 due to whether carry-through or carry-over contaminations. Considering carry-over, SARS-CoV-2 spread from personnel to food products or food surfaces is feasible. Beyond that, some shreds of evidence showed that pigs, rabbits and certain seafood can be infected by SARS-CoV-2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666524720300045
Thus, viral transmission through meat and seafood products may be conceivable, indicating carry-through contamination. As the spread rate of SARS-CoV-2 is high and its stability in different environments, especially food processing surfaces, is also remarkable, it may enter foods in whether industrialized processing or the traditional one. Therefore, established precautious acts are suggested to be applied in food processing units. The present review elucidates the risk of various staple food products, including meat and meat products, dairy products, bread, fruits, vegetables, and ready-to-eat foods as potential carriers for transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
This study investigates the risk of various staple food products as potential vehicles for SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
In the initial days of the pandemic, scientists discovered that the virus also affects the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach, small intestine, and colon. Hence, the fecal-oral route for SARS-CoV-2 transmission is possible.
Individuals with gastric problems such as atrophic gastritis and gastric intestinal metaplasia may be vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infection. https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(20)30469-8/abstract
The study team believes that adding precautionary measures to prevent contamination by infectious people to established food products known to carry SARS-CoV-2 transmission could help mitigate the virus's spread. Health experts have also urged people to practice respiratory hygiene, physical distancing, regular hand hygiene, and wearing masks to prevent infection.
Although some studies have shown that contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus through food or food packaging carries a low risk, it is still essential to take precautionary measures.
There are also other emerging studies showing that the virus can be carried through food supplies. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924224420305847
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has high stability in certain environmental conditions – particularly cold, dry weather and has been observed to survive on surfaces (or fomites) for as long as 72 hours.
Researchers have also found viral particles in stool samples from COVID-19 patients. Hence, the fecal-oral route should be thoroughly investigated as a potential viral mode of transmission during this pandemic too. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-020-0295-7
Scientific Evidence also reveals that infection can transpire in pigs and rabbits. Plus, food handlers can contaminate various food, including bread, dairy products, meat, fruits, vegetables, and even packaging materials.
The study team also noted that food processing companies, specifically, ready-to-eat and frozen products like frozen yogurt and ice cream, should be cautious about cross-contamination of these products by SARS-CoV-2. These products could not be processed at home, heightening the risk of infection if the food handler harbors the virus.
Although there is no direct evidence about the impact of food components, e.g., water activity (aw), pH, protein, fat, sugar, and minerals, on SARS-CoV-2 stability, the general data about the effect of these intrinsic factors on food-borne viruses might come in handy. Coronaviruses are generally susceptible to acidic pH; however, it was suggested that SARS-CoV-2 is stable in a wide pH range from 3 up to 10. Then, it must have been stable in almost all food products. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.15.20036673v2
The team explained, "Therefore, these statistics profoundly highlight the great impact of food handlers on the occurrence of food-associated outbreaks. Besides, the airborne spread of SARS-CoV-2 is also possible, particularly in indoor environments.”
Individuals must continue to adhere to hygiene instructions by the World Health Organization (WHO) while grocery shopping. The WHO recommends that consumers immediately dispose of the packaging materials and avoid eating raw foods, like meat products.
The study tea warned, "Accordingly, food may act as a potential vehicle of SARS-CoV-2 due to whether carry-through or carry-over contaminations. Considering carry-over, SARS-CoV-2 spread from personnel to food products or food surfaces is feasible.”
It is important that cooking food should be done at high temperatures, which is recommended at more than 60˚C for at least 30 min. The study team also proposed the daily ingestion of food rich in probiotics and bioactive components.
The WHO also recommends washing food items, like fruits and vegetables, with soap and water before consumption, to remove potential pathogens. Though the health agency believes it is unnecessary to disinfect food packaging items, it is essential to wash the hands after handling them.
It is said that SARS-CoV-2 can be remained stable for up to 2 years at -20 °C. From detecting at least nine occurrences of food contamination by SARS-CoV-2 on imported frozen foods in China, it can be concluded that several frozen dairy products such as ice cream, frozen yogurt, and frozen dairy desserts may act as carriers for the novel coronavirus. Therefore, more studies are needed to be conducted to evaluate the risk of transmission through dairy products. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10311-020-01101-x
The team says that determining and fully understanding the possible ways of SARS-CoV-2 transmission is crucial amid the ongoing pandemic.
Food should always be carefully handled according to the study team and proper precautions should always be maintained.
To date, there have over 60 million cases of COVID-19 confirmed and more than 1.4million people have died.
The United States remains the country with the highest number of infections, topping 12.6 million cases and more than 260,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 so far with an even greater amount of deaths expected in the next few months.
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