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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

COVID-19 likely to cause cancellation of a physical meeting of 43rd Codex Commission

The Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, Guilherme da Costa, Brazil, has written to FAO suggesting the cancellation of the 43rd Codex Alimentarius Commission session planned for July 2020 in Rome and to explore the opportunity to hold an online Executive Committee session to ensure that standard setting work can continue. In the communication, Da Costa expresses his concern that expert delegations will not be able to gather in Rome for the Commission not only due to global travel restrictions currently [...]
06 May 2020

COVID-19 / Codex Africa region holds first informal meeting online

The coronavirus outbreak has interrupted the schedule of physical meetings in Codex and led to a rethink of how countries within the Codex community, with its continuous cycle of committees and working groups, can stay connected when international meetings seem off the agenda for the time being. On Tuesday 21 April 48 participants from 18 countries in the Codex CCAFRICA region, together with representatives from the African Union – Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources, the Economic Community of West African States, [...]
22 April 2020

COVID-19 / Codex discusses working online

Members of the Codex Executive Committee met up via online video conferencing technology for an informal meeting on 2 April 2020. Discussions revolved around the subsidiary body meetings that have either been cancelled or postponed and how to maintain the momentum of standards development work that is already underway. The Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission Guilherme da Costa, Brazil, said: “This is a completely unexpected situation for us when we take a look at our field of work. Producers, transporters, [...]
17 April 2020

Protecting the food supply chain from COVID-19

In times of self-isolation and quarantine we all rely more than ever on a safe and efficient food supply chain to ensure that food is readily available in every home.  As food shopping in stores and markets becomes more difficult for consumers because of the measures to reduce contact and avoid the person-to-person spread of coronavirus, governments are doing all they can to keep food available on the shelves. To ensure this, the food itself and the people working hard to [...]
08 April 2020

COVID-19 / Maintaining the momentum of Codex work

COVID-19 and the related response from governments across the globe has led to the postponement or cancellation of numerous Codex subsidiary body meetings scheduled to be held in 2020. However, food safety remains an important issue and the Codex Secretariat is working together with Host Secretariats, Chairs of Committees and Chairs/Vice-Chairs of Electronic Working Groups (EWGs) to ensure that the standards development work can continue even if the committees cannot meet this year. Tom Heilandt, Codex Secretary confirmed that electronic working groups [...]
28 March 2020

COVID-19 / Codex Secretary discusses options for meeting schedule

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to interrupt the meeting and events schedules of all organizations worldwide, the Codex Secretariat in conjunction with the governments that host Codex meetings has announced that eight meetings have either been postponed or cancelled, calling into question whether the Codex Alimentarius Commission will go ahead in Rome, Italy in July 2020. In an extended interview, Codex Secretary Tom Heilandt explains the contingency plans being put in place to mitigate the loss of meetings from the Codex [...]
26 March 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