By late April, the U.S. has seen more than one million confirmed cases and more than 63,500 deaths from COVID-19. The numbers continue to climb, and as some states begin a cautious reopening. But there is still a remarkable amount of misinformation on the disease and how it is transmitted. We know the virus is transmitted person-to-person, and we also know that the virus can live on surfaces. But is CPG packaging safe? Let’s review the data from the experts.
FDA Says CPG Packaging Safe from COVID-19
Unlike foodborne illness, the COVID-19 virus is transmitted by respiratory droplets that come from an infected person. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that “there is currently no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.” They also say that, although the grocery store may be running short on certain items, there are no food shortages. They also suggest that CPG packaging does not need to be wiped down or disinfected. However, consumers can take that added precaution if they choose.
A food safety specialist agrees. Quoted in The Food Industry Association (FMI), Dr. Ben Chapman suggests, “there is no indication that food packaging material has a significant connection to virus transmission.” Washing your hands after putting away groceries is sufficient to protect against the transmission of the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concurs that there is a low transmission risk associated with CPG packaging. Quoted in Vox, the agency suggests the most significant risk of COVID-19 contamination is not from the CPG packaging but rather contact with other people and with some of the high-touch common areas in stores such as grocery carts or the handles of freezers. Americans should make sure they wear a mask in stores, avoid touching their face, and wash their hands thoroughly when they return from shopping.
The FDA does not recommend disinfecting perishable and non-perishable groceries. The Vox article quoted Frank Yiannas, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy as saying, “There is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus.”
But what about the CPG packaging on food takeout? Vox reports, “The most impactful precaution you can take when ordering food delivery, including grocery and liquor deliveries, is to avoid direct contact with couriers.” While tipping these workers is important, getting close enough to exchange cash is a bad idea. Instead, consider leaving a tip outside your door or using your credit card to leave a tip. Try placing delivery bags in the sink, instead of on the table our counter. Transfer the food to plates and store the food in something other than the takeout container.
The World Health Organization reiterates that the risk of contamination from CPG packaging is very low. While the means disinfecting each package is unnecessary, in the current environment, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after handling these items.
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