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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
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
CCRVDF25
Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods
Cleveland, Ohio
United States of America
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

FAO COVID-19 response affirms importance of food safety standards for trade

A webinar held on 14 July 2020 entitled ‘Joint Action on COVID-19: Boosting our Global Response’, presented the seven main intervention areas that FAO has developed in response to the COVID-19 crisis with a clear message that business as usual is not a possibility. If we carry on as usual we will see major loss of life. FAO Director-General QU Dongyu told participants that with 4.5 billion people dependent on food systems for their jobs and livelihoods it was time for FAO [...]
16 July 2020

Codex Executive Committee takes virtual route for standard setting

In an historic moment for the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the Executive Committee (CCEXEC) began its 79th meeting online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Spread over seven days (13-20 July 2020) and four online sessions, the committee will examine standards for adoption and proposals for new work from those committees that were able to meet before travel became impossible in March this year and all subsequent Codex meetings were cancelled. The recommendations of the CCEXEC will go forward for consideration [...]
13 July 2020

Spices sector gears up for post-COVID challenges and revival

by Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) Secretariat Towards the end of 2019, a new strain of coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, which showed unprecedented virulence and severity, was reported from Wuhan, China. Within about three months, the number of confirmed cases of infection, called COVID-19, had soared and the virus had spread to many countries across the world with exponentially rising infection and death rates. The outbreak was then declared a global health emergency, and on 11th March 2020, WHO [...]
02 July 2020

The Latin American and the Caribbean region comes together to keep Codex work active

Members from the Latin American and the Caribbean region met online on 17 June 2020 to discuss and share their views about Codex, the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and identify the best practices to carry on the work of committee ahead of the next session. Diego Varela, Chile, Chairperson of the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean (CCLAC), said that after working very actively on the follow-up to CCLAC21 through the Codex web forum, the countries of [...]
24 June 2020

CCEXEC79 to meet virtually / First online session of a Codex committee confirmed

Today, Codex Secretary Tom Heilandt confirmed that for the first time a formal Codex meeting will be convened as a virtual meeting. Following extensive discussions with FAO and WHO, a proposal for convening its next session virtually was made to the membership of the Executive Committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, indicating that this could only go forward with the support of a majority of the Membership. The CCEXEC Members have responded positively and CCEXEC79 will now convene virtually on [...]
23 June 2020

Ensuring food safety during the COVID-19 pandemic - a Codex observer view

Science and Codex guidelines help food businesses By Leon Gorris, Secretary of the International Commission on Microbiological Specification for Foods (ICMSF) Ensuring food safety is a public health priority and an essential step to achieving food security. While we are celebrating World Food Safety Day on 7 June 2020, we remind ourselves that food safety is everyone’s business. We all play a role, e.g. food growers, processors, distributors, retailers and consumers. Around the globe about 7 Million people have been infected by the coronavirus disease: [...]
17 June 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