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Novel Coronavirus and Food Safety

(February 2020)

Australia is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

The Australian Government Department of Health has established a website with up-to-date information on the virus. Visit the website.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that usually cause respiratory illness. They include viruses that cause the common cold and more serious illnesses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Can the virus be transmitted through food?

Previous experience with outbreaks of illness due to MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and other respiratory viruses (e.g. avian influenza) suggest that novel coronavirus may have been transmitted from animals to humans.

Transmission through food is unlikely and there is no evidence of this occurring with novel coronavirus to date, however investigations to identify the source of the outbreak, the extent of spread of the infection, and mode(s) of transmission are continuing.

Reducing your risk

Everyone should practice good hygiene and other measures to protect against infections.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises people to:

  • wash hands regularly
  • cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
  • thoroughly cook meat and eggs
  • avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing

Good hygiene and sanitation are important to avoid cross contamination between raw or undercooked foods and cooked or ready to eat foods in the kitchen.

As an added precaution, if you have suspected symptoms of respiratory illness you should avoid preparing food for other people and seek medical attention.

FSANZ will continue to monitor developments and liaise with the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, state and territory health authorities and international counterparts to assess the possibility of foodborne transmission of the virus.

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