WHO highlights that the Covid-19 is not a foodborne disease – care must be taken to minimize impacts on food supply

07 April 2020

Developing on from its statement of 30 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reiterated that COVID-19 is not a foodborne virus and that care must be taken to minimise potential impacts on the food supply or unintended consequences on global trade and food security.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively affect consumers and businesses across the globe, the food sector is faced with mitigating the risk and minimizing the impact on business while ensuring that employees and consumers are protected.

On 3 April, IDF participated in a webinar organized by WHO on the protection of work forces in food industry and retail and to present an up-coming guideline.

It was noted that disruptions to the food supply chain through such actions as extended border delays for food containers, or impeding movement of agricultural and food industry workers, could result in particularly pronounced consequences for the most vulnerable and food insecure populations. Food service providers are at the frontline and maintaining the movement of food along the supply chain is critical to survival of society as we know it.

Key points from these WHO guidelines:

• COVID-19 is not a foodborne disease [also emphasized by FAO];
• The focus for the sector is to keep the virus out of food processing environments;
• It is essential to have a healthy workforce to be able to produce in order to ensure accessibility to sufficient and adequate food for all;
• Clear processes need to be in place for workforce to inform of possible/actual infection;
• If the virus enters the premises then everything needs to be done to minimize transmission; focus there then is distancing, hand washing and cleaning/sanitization;
• The Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene continue to be the applicable reference document [see also Codex: Protecting the food supply chain from COVID-19]

The WHO guidelines will be released soon and will provide more detailed recommendations for different workplaces as well as recommendations for workplaces where social distancing may not be possible. A recording of the webinar and transcript are available here.

IDF will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as they become available.