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COVID-19

A cluster of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China was first reported to the WHO Country Office in China on 31 December 2019. The ensuing outbreak was soon identified as being caused by a novel coronavirus. The first case outside China was reported on 13 January 2020 and the outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. On 11 February 2020 WHO announced a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19. WHO said on 11 March that they had made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

The threat to food safety

The COVID-19 pandemic and the global response to it are presenting unprecedented challenges to the way we work and the mechanisms by which we ensure food safety, from global standard setting to operational oversight. Access to safe and nutritious food is at the forefront of consumers globally, with many people, irrespective of the state of development of their country, having to spend more time and effort planning and shopping for food. There is a much greater awareness of hygiene and the role it plays in disease transmission, and questions being asked as to whether food could play a role in the transmission of the virus causing COVID-19.

Global trade

Global food supply chains have also come under pressure with fears the complex interactions involving farmers, slaughterhouses, food processing plants, shipping, retailers and others would result in slowdowns due to port closures or disruptions in logistics and/or food supply caused by COVID-19 illness in workers along the long food chain.

Keeping food safe

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness primary transmitted through person-to-person contact and direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. There is no evidence to date of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses being transmitted via food or food packaging. Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food; they need an animal or human host to multiply. It is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging.

The application of sound principles of environmental sanitation, personal hygiene and established food hygiene practices will reduce the likelihood that harmful microorganisms will threaten the safety of the food supply, regardless of whether the food is sourced from intensive agriculture, small stakeholders or the wild.

The role of Codex in COVID-19

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has developed several international best practices to ensure food hygiene in general as well as when, handling meats and other foods, and to control viruses in foods. Countries are encouraged to implement these best practices.

International risk-focused and science-based Codex texts set the benchmark for food safety in global food trade. They provide a framework for the broad management principles of food safety in a transparent rules-based trading environment and reduce risks for those operating in the increasingly complex international trading system while ensuring the protection of consumer health.

Related Codex Texts

Reference Title Committee Last modified
EN
FR
ES
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CXC 1-1969General Principles of Food HygieneCCFH2020
CXC 58-2005Code of Hygienic Practice for MeatCCMPH2005
CXG 26-1997Guidelines for the Design, Operation, Assessment and Accreditation of Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification SystemsCCFICS2010
CXG 47-2003Guidelines for Food Import Control SystemsCCFICS2006
CXG 79-2012Guidelines on the Application of General Principles of Food Hygiene to the Control of Viruses in FoodCCFH2012
CXG 89-2016Principles and guidelines for the exchange of information between importing and exporting countries to support the trade in foodCCFICS2016
CXG 20-1995Principles for Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification CCFICS1995
CXG 38-2001Guidelines for Design, Production, Issuance and Use of Generic Official CertificatesCCFICS2009

Impact on Codex work

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the schedule of Codex sessions for 2020 and forced us to explore different ways of maintaining the momentum of the Codex standard setting work. General Subject and Commodity Committees however remain active through their electronic working groups (EWGs). Other organs of Codex such as the Executive Committee, and Coordinating Committees are holding informal virtual meetings to exchange views on Codex business continuity taking into account the core values of Codex – inclusiveness, collaboration, consensus building and ,transparency, as well as experiences of other international organisations.

Regular updates are provided on the committee web pages - click on the abbreviation of the committee name for details. 

Meetings rescheduled due to COVID-19

TFAMR8
Ad hoc Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance
Virtual
04/10/202113/10/2021

Meetings to be rescheduled

CCFH52
Codex Committee on Food Hygiene
Virtual
28/02 to 09/03/2022

News

Codex food labelling committee / preparation and willingness to compromise keys to success

The 46th session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL46), hosted by Canada, will get underway virtually on 27 September and conclude on 7 October 2021. Topics on the agenda include: labelling of non-retail containers, front of pack nutrition labelling, allergen labelling and guidance on e-commerce. CCFL46 was postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the pandemic which allowed for extra time to further develop the agenda items.  Ahead of the meeting, Chairperson Kathy Twardek, Canada said: “A great deal [...]
25 September 2021

CAC44 / Codex Members updated on approach for second virtual Commission

A webinar held on 21 July 2021 gave countries an update on plans for the 44th Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC44) scheduled for November 2021 and the procedures currently being developed by the Codex Secretariat, together with FAO and WHO, that are expected to be presented to the Membership for endorsement similar to the approach taken for the first virtual CAC in 2020. Speaking at the event attended by over 150 participants, Codex Secretary Tom Heilandt said that before holding a virtual [...]
24 July 2021

Codex food additives working group faces the challenge of virtual meetings

The Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) traditionally holds a week of working groups before its plenary meeting. These technical sessions ensure that one of the core Codex texts, the General Standard for Food Additives (GFSA) is up-to-date in describing the conditions under which food additives may be used in foods and that the additives provisions of the commodity standards align with it, making the GSFA the single reference point for food additives in the Codex Alimentarius. The group met virtually [...]
29 June 2021

CCFICS25 / Trade is what will continue to keep our global community together

The 25th session of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) being held virtually from 31 May 2021 to 8 June, began with a welcome in the Ngunnawal language to Ngunnawal country the land where Canberra is located. “We acknowledge and pay our respects to the elders,” said Lyn O’Connell, Deputy Secretary in the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water & The Environment further acknowledging all traditional owners on the land from which CCFICS delegates [...]
31 May 2021

The Spice Bowl of the World takes up the challenge of a virtual session

The Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) began today with a series of virtual sessions running from 20 to 29 April 2021. Welcoming delegates and speaking on behalf of the hosts India, Mr. D. Sathiyan, Secretary of the Spices Board underlined the physical, technological and logistical challenges facing the committee. “It is heartening and encouraging to note that even in the midst of this difficult situation, the Member Countries have shown tremendous interest in the spices and culinary [...]
20 April 2021

Ministers call on Codex to be bold in creating ambitious new standards

Welcoming delegates to the 32nd session of the Codex Committee on General Principles (CCGP) that is taking place virtually from 8 to 17 February 2021,  Julien Denormandie, Minister of Agriculture and Food, of the host country France said that in a world facing a major pandemic, the different stakeholders in the food sector everywhere face the challenge of producing healthy and good quality food in sufficient quantity, while at the same time coping with the risk of health, economic hazards [...]
11 February 2021
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Key Information

  • Currently, there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19, can be transmitted by food
  • Coronavirus cannot grow on food. A virus requires a living host in order to multiply
  • The best way to avoid COVID-19 is through good hygiene habits
  • Food businesses must reinforce good hygienic practices
  • To ensure and maintain access to safe food, authorities must reinforce the implementation of existing international standards