On 12 December 2020, I delivered my invited presentation to the Nepalese Association of Victoria during the second and final session of their food safety and nutritional wellbeing webinar series – many thanks are extended to Dr Yakindra Timilsena from the Association for the invitation.
During the first session of this webinar series on October 31, I presented on general food safety precautions plus the early data that was available on retention of activity/infectivity of SARS-CoV-2. The data which was just coming out in this area during August to October was pretty preliminary and light-on indeed. However, fast-forward to November and December, and we have more solid evidence available to strengthen the possibility of COVID-19 being a foodborne disease. Admittedly, some of the available data is so new and recent it is still in the pre-print stage of the publication process, but there are some interesting findings nevertheless. The most significant I feel is the data which indicates that SARS-CoV-2 is capable of surviving or remaining active for 21 days, not only at 4 C or -20 C, but even as low as -80 C. This is a very significant finding indeed for the global food supply chain, which relies on a cold chain as a key food preservation approach, yet, this very approach might actually be preserving the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 and spreading COVID-19 around the world. So, there is certainly mounting evidence that it is theoretically possible, just very challenging to demonstrate in a practical sense across international jurisdictions. However, as a result of the evidence, due consideration certainly needs to be given to this transmission route as a possibility. Previously the best evidence available demonstrated that this virus was able to withstand standard (domestic) freezing conditions in human milk for 48 hours – a most significant result indeed back in August. However, the most recent finding shows that it can really happen – survival on food products long enough to cross international border in freight supply chains.
My contribution to this webinar session (accessible by the link above) was 23 minutes and 42 seconds in duration. It commences at a recording time of 42:39 and ends at 1:06:21.