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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 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

CCGP32
Codex Committee on General Principles
Virtual
08/02/202117/02/2021
CCFA52
Codex Committee on Food Additives
TBA
08/03/202112/03/2021
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
CCFICS25
Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems
Virtual
31/05/202108/06/2021
TFAMR8
Ad hoc Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance
TBA
Republic of Korea
14/06/202119/06/2021
CCRVDF25
Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods
TBA
12/07/202116/07/2021

Meetings to be rescheduled

CCFL46
Codex Committee on Food Labelling
Quebec City
Canada
26/09/2021 - 01/10/2021
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

CCNASWP addressing implementation of the Codex Strategic Plan during the pandemic

Representatives of countries of the North America and South West Pacific (NASWP) region met virtually on 23 November 2020 to update the regional work-plan for implementation of the Codex Strategic Plan until CCNASWP will reconvene, tentatively early 2022. Addressing over 25 participants, in opening remarks Vice-Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, Steve Wearne, UK, said “all Members had a voice in the adoption of the new Strategic Plan and all Codex actors now have a shared responsibility for its implementation”. Delegations [...]
26 November 2020

First virtual Commission Day 4: adopts all standards proposed and reactivates fish committee

With an audience again exceeding 500, the 43rd gathering of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, being held in three-hour sessions across six days, has completed its programme of standard adoption and approval of new work. Chairperson Guilherme Da Costa, Brazil, applauded once again the continued collaboration of Member Countries to build consensus and ensure valuable work can continue. “I thank you all for your support, your energy and usual cooperative spirit”, he said. The Commission adopted a series of standards from the Processed [...]
13 October 2020

Standards adoption progresses at first ever virtual meeting

With three sessions of CAC43 already completed, ten standards and six new work proposals have been adopted by the Commission, meeting for the first time ever virtually. Over 120 Members and more than 50 Observer organizations have participated so far and the next plenary session will be on Monday 12 October, 12:00 CET. Listed below are the standards, guidelines and codes of practice that will be adopted into the Codex Alimentarius and the proposals for new work that have been approved. As [...]
28 September 2020

Virtual Commission opens with an emphasis on innovation

The Directors-General of FAO and WHO, the parent organizations of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, set the stage for five days of decision-making on food standards with a message about getting ‘better’. More than 800 registered delegates joined the first-ever virtual Commission, now in its 43rd session, held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  In congratulating the Commission for ‘jumping into the digital world’, FAO Director-General Dr QU Dongyu noted that science is the driving force for setting Codex food standards. “When [...]
24 September 2020

Commission dress rehearsal attracts an audience of over 300

The webinar organized by the Codex Secretariat on Friday 11 September 2020 was well attended with 86 countries and the European Union, plus 34 observer organizations taking part and numbers of attendees peaking at over 300. In opening the session, the Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, Guilherme Da Costa, Brazil paid tribute to the global Codex Contact Points who play a key role in managing the practical work for Codex Members. “Through them, everything happens in the organization and without [...]
14 September 2020

Codex announces webinar for delegates to prepare for first virtual Commission

As Codex Members and Observers prepare to take part in the first ever virtual session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which starts on 24 September 2020, the Codex Secretariat has organized a training webinar to prepare delegates for the online meeting. This webinar will take place on Friday 11 September 2020, at 12.00 (CET). Delegates will hear from the Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, Guilherme Da Costa and from Codex Secretary, Tom Heilandt, how it was possible to arrange for [...]
10 September 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