Page tools
codexalimentarius > Themes > COVID-19

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

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

COVID-19 / Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods postponed

The host secretariat of the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods (CCRVDF) has confirmed that the upcoming session, due to be held in San Diego, USA from 25-29 May 2020 has been postponed due to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19. In collaboration with the Codex Secretariat, discussions are underway to explore if the meeting could be rescheduled for early 2021 at the same location. Further details on new dates and on the work of the committee will be published [...]
17 March 2020

COVID-19 / Three additional Codex meetings cancelled

The Codex Secretariat, in agreement with the respective host secretariats of the Codex Committees on Contaminants in Foods (CCCF), Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS), and Methods of Analysis and Sampling (CCMAS) has announced that the sessions are cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. “Given the increasing gravity of the situation we needed to provide certainty to those preparing to organise and participate in these sessions. We discussed with each host secretariat to find out their national [...]
13 March 2020

COVID-19 / Update on Codex meeting schedule

The Codex Secretariat together with the host secretariats for Codex Committees are monitoring the evolving situation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and assessing its possible impact for upcoming Codex meetings.  Updates on the status of all Codex meetings scheduled to take place from March to June 2020 will be published as soon as they become available and a further status report will be provided by Friday 20 March 2020 at the latest.   Read more Go to the WHO website for COVID-19 updates  
10 March 2020

Codex Committee on General Principles / meeting postponed

Due to the exceptional circumstances related to the expansion of the COVID-19 outbreak in France and in different parts of the world, serious consideration had to be given regarding the scheduled Codex Committee on General Principles (CCGP), due to be held in Bordeaux from 23-27 March 2020. The host government, France, through the CCGP Secretariat and in agreement with the Codex Secretariat regret to announce that CCGP32 has therefore been postponed. Information regarding new dates and the venue will be published as [...]
06 March 2020
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

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