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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
AR
ZH
RU
CXC 1-1969General Principles of Food HygieneCCFH2003
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

CCRVDF25
Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods
Cleveland, Ohio
United States of America
25/01/202129/01/2021
CCGP32
Codex Committee on General Principles
Bordeaux
France
08/02/202112/02/2021
CCFA52
Codex Committee on Food Additives
TBA
08/03/202112/03/2021
CCFICS25
Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems
TBA
22/03/202126/03/2021
CCPR52
Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues
TBA
China
12/04/202117/04/2021
CCCF14
Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods
TBA
Netherlands
03/05/202107/05/2021
CCMAS41
Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling
Budapest
Hungary
17/05/202121/05/2021
TFAMR8
Ad hoc Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance
TBA
Republic of Korea
14/06/202119/06/2021

Meetings to be rescheduled

CAC43
Codex Alimentarius Commission
TBCto be confirmed
CCEXEC80
Executive Committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission
TBCto be confirmed
CCFL46
Codex Committee on Food Labelling
TBCto be confirmed
CCFO27
Codex Committee on Fats and Oils
TBC18-22/10/2021
CCNFSDU42
Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses
TBC22-26/11/2021
CCFH52
Codex Committee on Food Hygiene
San Diego
United States of America
29/11 to 03/12/2021

News

FAO Interview - Europe and Central Asia - adapting to maintain food safety in times of COVID-19

Mary Kenny, FAO food safety and consumer protection officer for the Europe and Central Asia region spoke in a recent interview from Budapest about how all those involved in food safety will need to adapt in order to maintain the safety and integrity of the food supply chain and support international trade. Read the full interview here on the FAO regional web pages. Photo credit © UN Ukraine/Volodymyr Shuvayev       
11 June 2020

Food additives committee supporting innovation whilst maintaining core values

Many of the Codex technical committees are exploring how to continue working on specific topics in the absence of physical meetings without losing an entire year. The Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA), hosted by China, met online on 21 May 2020 with the countries leading electronic working groups in the committee to address concerns from member countries and observers on how CCFA can continue to manage its standard development work effectively. Commenting on the outcome of those discussions, chairperson Yongxiang [...]
27 May 2020

Italian food business setting standards to keep food flowing

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how large numbers of workers throughout the food industry supply chain are indeed operating on the frontline. They are vital to ensuring we all have enough to eat but potentially more at risk from the virus than those under lockdown unless hygiene and sanitation measures at their place of work are of the highest standard and clear instructions and guidelines for employees, regarding how to operate during the pandemic, are in place. Italy was one of [...]
24 May 2020

Codex and the pandemic - strategic challenges and opportunities

Raj Rajasekar, Senior Programme Manager, Ministry for Primary Industries - New Zealand. The Executive Committee informal virtual meeting held on 12 May 2020 provided a timely opportunity to reflect on the impact of the current pandemic on the work of Codex and some of the strategic challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. COVID-19 has spread rapidly across the world since the beginning of the year has had a huge impact on the work of Codex and many other multilateral institutions. The [...]
15 May 2020

Codex Euro Region responds to the challenge of cancelled meetings

If you review the history of Codex committees since 1963 there are occasional gaps in the meeting schedule and most of these in the early years of Codex as the programme gradually developed and expanded. Some committees do not meet every year and so the average number of sessions through the 1970s, 80s, 90s and up to the present day has grown from less than 10 in any calendar year up to 20 in 2019. What then to make of the [...]
13 May 2020

Protecting food security and facilitating food trade during COVID-19

Prepared by the Chairperson of Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) in cooperation with Australia, Canada, the European Union, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States of America. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten food security due to its impact on global food supply chains. Whilst the pandemic does not create new problems, it can exacerbate existing challenges as a result of changes to food supply. The importance of the global food trade and [...]
08 May 2020
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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