Category Archives: COVID-19

Research – Impact of COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions on the extent of Norovirus contamination in oyster production areas in Ireland during winter 2020/21

Journal of Food Protection

A significant decrease in norovirus prevalence and concentration was observed in oyster production areas in Ireland during winter 2020/21.  Oyster production areas impacted by human wastewater discharges that were under-going norovirus surveillance since 2018 were investigated. Samples collected in the winter seasons of 2018/19 and 2019/20, prior to when the COVID-19 pandemic interventions were applied, showed a prevalence of 94.3% and 96.6% respectively and geometric mean concentrations of 533 and 323 genome copies per gram (gcg -1 ) respectively. These values decreased significantly during the winter of 2020/21 (prevalence of 63.2% and geometric concentration of <LOQ) coinciding with the control measures to mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Divergence between norovirus GI and GII prevalence and concentrations was observed over the three year monitoring period. Norovirus GII was the dominant genogroup detected in winter 2020/21 with over half of samples positive although concentrations detected were significantly lower than pre-pandemic winters with a geometric mean concentration of <LOQ.

Scotland – COVID-19 Guidance for Food Business Operators and Their Employees

FSS

Food Standard Scotland’s guidance on COVID-19 for food businesses was first published in April 2020, and has been continually updated since then to take account of new evidence, changes to public health advice and the introduction of mandatory mitigation measures needed to control the spread of the virus.

With the arrival of the new Omicron variant, businesses should strengthen compliance with current protection measures and make an extra effort to do so from now through the festive period and beyond.

Since movement beyond level 0, food businesses have been following a baseline set of mitigation measures that was retained across all sectors. With the arrival of the new variant, food businesses are being referred to the updated Scottish Government’s general safer workplaces guidance which aims to further support businesses in controlling the risks of COVID-19. This guidance is for all businesses and workplaces and provides advice on measures that should be taken to reduce risk and create a safe environment for customers and staff.

To assist food businesses in translating the measures in the Scottish Government safer workplaces guidance, FSS has produced a risk assessment tool which will support FBOs in identifying and documenting the actions they need to take to prevent the spread of COVID-19, whilst maintaining an effective Food Safety Management System (FSMS). The tool provides a way of allowing all FBOs to document the measures they have taken, and demonstrate that these are being maintained on an on-going basis to ensure their staff and customers are protected from the risks of COVID-19.

FSS has also produced guidance for FBOs on the investigation of COVID-19 outbreaks. This has been developed in collaboration with Public Health Scotland (PHS) which aims to help food businesses understand how decisions will be taken when an outbreak of COVID-19 is identified in their workforce. This guidance is split into two main sections which describes what FBOs are expected to know in relation to controlling COVID-19 in the workplace, and how to prepare for an IMT.

This guidance package is essential for all food businesses operating throughout the current stage of the pandemic. Using the resources supplied by FSS and Scottish Government will also support FBOs in engaging with their employees on the management of COVID-19 risks to ensure a safe working environment, in accordance with the joint statement on ‘fair work expectations during the transition out of lockdown’ signed by The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work & Culture, CoSLA, the Institute of Directors and Scottish Council for Development & Industry, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the STUC. All employers are asked to reflect on and act in accordance with the Statement as the economy re-opens and to help progress the ambition shared by the Scottish Government and the Fair Work Convention for Scotland to become a Fair Work Nation.

It is important to note that this guidance package will continue to be reviewed regularly in line with Scottish Government’s review of COVID-19 restrictions, as well as emerging evidence and any further changes to public health advice.

Research – Food Handling Concerns and Practices at-Home during the COVID-19 Pandemic by Food Security Status

Journal of Food Protection

There is limited examination about COVID-19-related food handling concerns and practices that cause chemical or microbial contamination and illness, particularly among those with food insecurity. We investigated consumer food handling concerns and practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether they differed by food insecurity status. An online survey was distributed among Chicago, Illinois residents between July 15-August 21, 2020 (N=437). Independent t-tests and Fisher’s Exact tests were used to identify differences in food handling concerns and practices between those with and without food insecurity (alpha=0.05). Survey items included questions about food handling practices that were considered safe or neutral (i.e., washing hands and produce with water, sanitizing food packaging) and unsafe (i.e., using cleaning agents to wash foods, leaving perishable foods outside) using 5-point Likert-style scales or categorical responses (i.e., yes, no). Participant responses fell between “slightly” and “somewhat” concerned about contracting COVID-19 from food and food packaging (mean ± SE: 2.7±0.1). While participants reported washing their hands before eating and preparing foods at least “most of the time” (mean ± SE: 4.4 ± 0.0 and 4.5 ± 0.0, respectively), only one-third engaged in unsafe practices. The majority of participants (68%) indicated that they altered food handling practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic and received information about food safety from social media (61%).  When investigating differences in concerns and practices by food insecurity status, food insecure participants were more concerned about COVID-19 foodborne transmission for all food items (ps<0.0001) and more frequently performed unsafe based food handling practices than those with food security (ps<0.0001). Results from this study suggest more investigation is needed to understand barriers to safe food handling knowledge and practices, particularly among those with food insecurity.

Information – WHO and EU Commission publish coronavirus food safety advice

Food Safety News

The World Health Organization (WHO) and European Commission have published separate guidance about coronavirus and food safety.

The WHO interim guidance for food businesses

The European Commission published a Q+A on COVID-19 and food safety

Research – COVID-19 expert explains what soap does to SARS-CoV-2 virus

Mayo Clinic

Your hand has oils on it, and viruses stick to that oil. They have an electrostatic charge to them. But when you’re washing with soap, soap has things that decrease surface tension in them so you are physically rubbing by friction and washing away that virus. It is the most effective thing we know to do. That’s why surgeons, for example, scrub their hands so very carefully before they go into an OR. It works, and it works really well.

Research – Why health experts aren’t warning about Coronavirus in food

Wbay

Chicken with Salmonella can make you sick. So can romaine lettuce with E. coli and buffets with lurking Norovirus. So why aren’t health officials warning people about eating food contaminated with the new Coronavirus?

The answer has to do with the varying paths organisms take to make people sick.

Respiratory viruses like the new Coronavirus generally attach to cells in places like the lungs. Germs like Norovirus and Salmonella can survive the acid in stomachs, then multiply after attaching to cells inside people’s guts.

“Specializing in what tissues to attach to is typically part of the disease’s strategy to cause illness,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC and other experts note that the virus is new and still being studied. But they say there’s no evidence yet that COVID-19 sickens people through their digestive systems, though the virus has been detected in the faeces of infected people.

How these germs spread also differs.

Respiratory viruses like the flu and the new Coronavirus spread mainly through person-to-person contact and air droplets from coughing, sneezing or other flying saliva.

Hong Kong – Coronaviruses and Foodborne Zoonoses

CFS

The current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been spreading rapidly around the world.  COVID-19 was believed to be caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), originated in animals and plausibly jumping across the species barrier to infect humans, The virus has then sustained a human-to-human transmission.

Zoonoses are diseases or infections transmitted between some animals and humans.  There are various ways in which people can catch a zoonosis: through direct contact with animals or materials contaminated by these animals, being bitten by a germ-carrying vector such as a mosquito, as well as through drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food (foodborne zoonoses).  While COVID-19 is likely a zoonosis, can we acquire the disease through eating?

Illustration of a SARS-CoV-2 virion

Germany – Germans think risk of coronavirus transmission by food is low

Food Safety News

The probability of coronavirus being transmitted via food is perceived by the public as being low, according to a survey in Germany.

Two thirds said the probability of being infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) via food was low. More than one in five rated the chance as medium and 12 percent said it was high.

There are no cases which have shown any evidence of humans being infected with the new type of coronavirus by consumption of contaminated food, according to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). As the viruses are sensitive to heat, risk of infection can be further reduced by heating foods.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also said there is no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.

Information- Coronavirus and Food Live Blog

Just Food

This is a blog dedicated to updated information on the Coronavirus and the Food Industry

How to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus When Grocery Shopping

Consumer Reports

The FDA says there’s no current evidence to support the transmission of the virus from food packaging.

But whether you buy groceries online or in stores, there are some simple steps you can take to try to limit your exposure to coronavirus, and they’re not so different from what CR recommends you typically do see the link above for some good tips.