The virus making the news across the world is just one of many many viruses around. It is recognised that the best way to stop the spread of any such micro-organism is to keep those that have it well away from those who do not yet have it. This is why many people across the world are now being either asked or forced to isolate themselves for what is believed to be the likely incubation time of 14 days. This means that there are passengers on cruise ships being kept in their rooms and groups of those coming into Australia being placed into isolated camps and other venues for 14 days before mixing with others if they are not showing any symptoms
There is a lot still to learn about this member of the Coronavirus group of viruses. This one has now been given a specific name Covid-19.
It is similar in genetics to another Coronavirus, SARS-CoV. So it may be transmitted from human to human in the same ways, including by aerosol and may survive in faecal matter.
It does not look likely to be able to be transmitted through food but it could be a potential contamination in food if faecal matter or an aerosol containing it were to be in the food.
So therefore it is essential not only with food but in general to avoid human produced aerosols and faecal matter. What we are really coming down to is proper hygiene and good handwashing. These should already both be key and continuous parts of the food safety controls in any business.
So the real impact to food safety from Covid-19 is that there is yet another reason to ensure that correct handwashing and other essential hygiene controls are done properly all the time. These include the use of the right Personal Protective Equipment at the right time, sickness measures and return times and conditions, and suitable toilet facilities.
Viruses like all micro-organisms, are affected in different ways by heat. The specific heat situation for this virus is yet to be determined, so it is essential that this be monitored by the technical staff in a food business. It is important to remember that chilling and freezing will not readily destroy this or other viruses, so cold or frozen foods from impacted countries or areas need to be risk assessed before purchase or acceptance.
One other issue to consider is with raw materials or packaging coming from other countries, especially those impacted by this virus, and what impact those factories having less staff due to illness or isolation, or evgen closed completely, is going to have on your business and the food safety of those materials.
This situation highlights just how important it is for all food businesses to undertake both Threat and Vulnerability Assessments and implement actions to prevent issues before they arise.