< Transmission

Can SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus be caught by eating?

Text updated on 2020-05-20

Cooked foods, peeled, and rinsed fruit/vegetables are not contaminants.

There have not been enough studies to date to determine whether transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can occur through food.

As the virus can be detected on cardboard for 24 hours, after shopping, it is advisable to set aside non-perishable foodstuffs for 1 day before using them.

Cautionary measure. If food is cooked at high temperatures or boiled, the virus is inactivated and there is no risk. For fresh vegetables to be stored in the refrigerator, since the virus is very resistant to this temperature, it is prudent to wash them in a bath of soapy water, then rinse them thoroughly before drying and storing them. Absolutely avoid bleach and all toxic detergents, which are extremely dangerous if swallowed!

Thoroughly wash your hands and all surfaces and utensils used for cooking. If someone has COVID-19 or has symptoms, it is best that they not to do the cooking. If you are cooking or handling food for people who do not live with you (for example, at work), wear a mask and clean gloves - use the gloves only when touching food!

Transmission to the table. Epidemiological studies have shown that people have been infected following a family meal or while eating out when only a few meters from a table with a contagious person who was not coughing.

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The WHO report on the outbreak in China reports uncertainty about transmission through food.

WHO Report

Discussion on the fecal-oral route of transmission for SARS-CoV-2.

Yeo, C., Kaushal, S., & Yeo, D. (2020). Enteric involvement of coronaviruses: is faecal-oral transmission of SARS-CoV-2 possible? The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 5(4), 335-337.

One type of bovine coronavirus remains active for up to 14 days on lettuce stored at 4°C.

Mullis L, Saif LJ, Zhang Y, Zhang X, Azevedo MS. Stability of bovine coronavirus on lettuce surfaces under household refrigeration conditions. Food Microbiology. 2012 May;30(1):180-186.

SARS-CoV-2 is inactivated in 5 minutes at 70°C, but it resists well at 4°C.

Chin, A., Chu, J., Perera, M., Hui, K., Yen, H. L., Chan, M., ... & Poon, L. (2020). Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions. medRxiv.

In one restaurant, a pre-symptomatic COVID-19 person contaminated at least two other people more than 2 meters away, who were eating at two adjacent tables. Note that the space on the third floor of the restaurant was enclosed and ventilation must have contributed to the spread of the viral particles.

Lu, J., Gu, J., Li, K., Xu, C., Su, W., Lai, Z., ... & Yang, Z. (2020). COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning in Restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26(7).

Several cases of COVID-19 infections in January-February 2020 in South Korea were due to contamination during a family meal or at a restaurant/café.

Kong, I., Park, Y., Woo, Y., Lee, J., Cha, J., Choi, J., ... & Kim, T. (2020). Early epidemiological and clinical characteristics of 28 cases of coronavirus disease in South Korea. Osong Public Health Res Perspect, 11(1), 8-14.

Several people from the same family were contaminated after two family reunion dinners.

Ye, F., Xu, S., Rong, Z., Xu, R., Liu, X., Deng, P., ... & Xu, X. (2020). Delivery of infection from asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 in a familial cluster. International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Several cases of contamination at family meals in China. Note that the space on the third floor of the restaurant was enclosed and ventilation must have contributed to the spread of viral particles.

Liu, Y., Eggo, R. M., & Kucharski, A. J. (2020). Secondary attack rate and superspreading events for SARS-CoV-2. The Lancet, 395(10227), e47.

Further reading

How long is the coronavirus infectious?

Is the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus resistant to cold or heat?

How can we improve the hygiene of our environment?