COVID-19 and information relating to temperature.
Published by World Health Organisation, 2020. All rights acknowledged.
The new COVID-19 is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. The most likely ecological reservoirs for SARS-CoV-2 are bats, but it is believed that the virus jumped the species barrier to humans from another intermediate animal host. This intermediate animal host could be a domestic food animal, a wild animal, or a domesticated wild animal which has not yet been identified.
WHO continues to collaborate with experts, Member States and other partners to identify gaps and research priorities for the control of COVID-19, and provide advice to countries and individuals on prevention measures. National food safety authorities have been following this event with the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) Secretariat to seek more information on the potential for persistence of the virus on foods traded internationally and the potential role of food in the transmission of the virus. Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. To date, there have not been any reports of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus through food. However, concerns were expressed about the potential for these viruses to persist on raw foods of animal origin.
Currently, there are investigations conducted to evaluate the viability and survival time of SARS-CoV-2. In general, coronaviruses are very stable in a frozen state according to studies of other coronaviruses, which have shown survival for up to two years at -20°C. Studies conducted on SARS-CoV ad MERS-CoV indicate that these viruses can persist on different surfaces for up to a few days depending on a combination of parameters such as temperature, humidity and light. For example, at refrigeration temperature (4°C), MERS-CoV can remain viable for up to 72 hours. Current evidence on other coronavirus strains shows that while coronaviruses appear to be stable at low and freezing temperatures for a certain period, food hygiene and good food safety practices can prevent their transmission through food. Specifically, coronaviruses are thermolabile, which means that they are susceptible to normal cooking temperatures (70°C). Therefore, as a general rule, the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, raw milk or raw animal organs should be handled with care to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.
SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV are susceptible to the most common cleaning and disinfection protocols and there is no indication so far that SARS-Cov-2 behaves differently.