The World Health Organization said Thursday there is “no evidence” the coronavirus is being transmitted through food.
Researchers in China are studying the issue, and the international agency is tracking their findings, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said during a press conference at the agency’s Geneva headquarters. But right now “there is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in the transmission of this virus,” he said.
“People should not fear food, or food packaging or processing or delivery of food. Food is very important. And I would hate to think that we would create an impression that there’s a problem with our food or there’s a problem with our food chain. We’re under enough pressure as it is,” he said.
Three cities in China have reported finding the virus on the surface of imported frozen food over the last four days, raising concerns that the virus could be passed through food and lead to new outbreaks, according to NBC News.
WHO officials said Chinese health authorities have tested a “few hundred thousand” samples of frozen food and found “very, very few” tests come back positive. The officials said they have issued guidance with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization on how food handlers can work with food safely.
Even if the virus did transmit through food, which evidence does not suggest, it can be killed before eating it, Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said.
“If the virus is actually in food, and we have no examples of where this virus has been transmitted as a foodborne, whereas someone has consumed a food product, the viruses can be killed like other virus as well, can be killed if the meat is cooked,” she said.
“People are already scared enough, fearful enough in the Covid pandemic,” Ryan said. It’s important that we track findings like this and it’s important that we don’t discount scientific evidence where we find it. But it’s also important that people can go about their daily lives without fear.”