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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
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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 CertificatesCCFICS2021

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

News

Uganda officially takes over from Kenya as the new coordinator for Codex in Africa

by CCAFRICA coordinator On 21 March 2022, during a hybrid meeting hosted in Entebbe, Uganda officially took over from Kenya as the new Regional Coordinator for the African region (CCAFRICA). This follows the appointment of Uganda for the period 2020 to 2022 by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) during its 43rd meeting held virtually in November 2020. Uganda has been a member of CODEX since 1964 and this is the second time Codex Alimentarius Commission has appointed Uganda to coordinate Codex activities [...]
27 March 2022

Codex Trust Fund Nepal / simulation exercise building experience and great fun too

It is true to say Codex never stops and although all committee sessions have finished for 2021, a training course on international standard setting and the Codex Alimentarius, part of a Codex Trust Fund (CTF) group project involving India, Bhutan and Nepal took place from 21 to 23 December 20221 in Dhulikhel, Nepal with participants from Bhutan joining virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. The three-day meeting included a simulation exercise where participants gained insight into the management and process of a [...]
22 December 2021

Codex Trust Fund / Advisory Group hears how support vital for raising profile of Codex and food safety

The Codex Trust Fund (CTF) supports countries to build strong, solid and sustainable national capacity to engage in Codex work. The Codex Trust Fund Advisory Group annual meeting took place online on 16 December 2021, hosted for the first time by the newly-elected Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, Steve Wearne, United Kingdom. The Advisory Group is part of the Codex governance mechanism and brings together FAO/WHO, donor countries other key stakeholders including the Codex Regional Coordinators. It serves as a forum [...]
18 December 2021

Codex finishes its 44th Commission and salutes outgoing Chairperson Guilherme Da Costa

The extended 44th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC44) came to a close on 14 December 2021 with the adoption of the outstanding agenda items in the final report. The Commission operates with simultaneous interpretation in six languages to guarantee an equitable forum for all delegations and work was interrupted on 18 November when the period of interpretation scheduled could no longer be extended. The Codex Secretariat subsequently arranged for delegations to provide written comments on the report and [...]
14 December 2021

Global Launch of FAO/WHO Food Control System Assessment Tool

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted the global launch of the FAO/WHO Food Control System Assessment Tool, to introduce the tool and promote the benefits of assessing a national food control system. The event was designed for senior officials and technical officers from competent authorities involved in the operation of the national food control system, but was open to anybody with an interest to find out more about the [...]
24 November 2021

Codex food labelling committee / preparation and willingness to compromise keys to success

The 46th session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL46), hosted by Canada, will get underway virtually on 27 September and conclude on 7 October 2021. Topics on the agenda include: labelling of non-retail containers, front of pack nutrition labelling, allergen labelling and guidance on e-commerce. CCFL46 was postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the pandemic which allowed for extra time to further develop the agenda items.  Ahead of the meeting, Chairperson Kathy Twardek, Canada said: “A great deal [...]
25 September 2021
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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