Coronavirus (COVID-19) - IFST Update | April 2020


  • COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus which is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans, so there is still a level of uncertainty
  • Food has not been identified as a likely source or route of transmission of the virus
  • The global food sector is being impacted both economically and socially, across the entire food chain, in relation to: human resources, such as changes in key personnel; supply chains of ingredients, packaging, finished products and equipment; sourcing as manufacturers may need to rely on alternative suppliers at short notice; transportation of people, materials and goods


  • As is usual in such situations, public health authorities provide guidance on recommendations on how to reduce the spread of infection (see links below)
  • While the virus originally passed from an animal to a human in China, the current cases are a result of human-to-human transmission
  • The mode of transmission is via respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough or exhale. The wearing of medical face masks is thought to have limited value in protecting against infection, however, they can be effective in preventing already infected persons from spreading the disease to others, hence are recommended for those in close contact with infected individuals

Hygiene and Food Safety

  • Food handlers are expected to already be well informed and trained about hand hygiene in factory operations (including washrooms and canteens). In the event of lack of access to hand-washing facilities with soap and warm water, sanitisers can be used, but are not as effective if hands are visibly soiled. Please refer to IFST’s Food Science Fact Sheet on ‘Hand Hygiene’ 
  • Manufacturers will continue to adhere to good manufacturing and food safety processes and procedures
  • In line with food safety best practice, good hygiene is important to avoid cross-contamination between raw or undercooked foods and cooked or ready to eat foods, in food preparation areas.
  • Meat products can be safely consumed if cooked thoroughly and handled properly, and WHO guidance mentions that individuals with underlying medical conditions should avoid contact with live animal markets and wild animals

Useful links