14

I was wondering how long a coronavirus (or viruses in general, because there's probably not that info available on coronavirus in food yet) inside food?

When Googling this question I find a lot of answers stating "There's no evidence that a coronavirus can survive on food containers an packaging" or "The ordinary precautions suffice: simply wash your vegetables and you're safe".

However... I'm interested about having the virus INSIDE food.

Let's say I have covid-19 (but am asymptomatic). I'm making something that requires contact with my hands (so possible contamination), and does NOT require baking. For example: marzipan. The virus particles might end up inside the marzipan.

How long will it last in there? I'm assuming the high sugar content will kill the virus cells rather quickly, but I'd rather be safe than sorry...

10
  • 6
    A virus doesn't have cells.
    – brhans
    Dec 22 '20 at 18:43
  • 1
    Keep your hands clean? Don't touch your face? Don't sneeze on your prep table? I think a virus inside your food would be a real long shot.
    – moscafj
    Dec 22 '20 at 20:28
  • 1
    This is an interesting question, and to my limited knowledge the concern is not someone eating the food later, but touching the food later and then rubbing their eyes or nose (or touching other items, which other people then touch, thus spreading the virion). Dec 22 '20 at 21:55
  • 1
    @moscafj “a virus inside your food” certainly isn't too long a shot. When not wearing a mask then normal breathing is quite sufficient to deposit with high probability some viruses in the food. When wearing a mask then having re-adjusted the mask without washing/sterilising hands is sufficient to leave viruses on them, of which with high probability some would end up in the food. Whether this is something to worry about is, indeed, the question (and the answer is no). Dec 23 '20 at 10:06
  • 3
    @brhans We can understand OP's colloquial use of "cell" to mean capsid, certainly.
    – J...
    Dec 23 '20 at 19:24
18

Kenji Lopez-Alt did a very in-depth article for Serious Eats about the coronavirus and food that is worth reading. There is no evidence of the coronavirus (or covid) being passed through food, because in general the virus would break down too quickly to be passed on. Viruses survive better on non-porous surfaces. The full article is here:

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/food-safety-and-coronavirus-a-comprehensive-guide.html

12
  • 2
    @wizzwizz4 When it comes to serious scientists, then "there is no evidence for that" is the most negative statement you can get. The reason is that the scientific method can not prove a negative. There is no evidence that invisible pink unicorns exist. Yet science can not disprove their existence or the hypothesis that you can contract SARS-CoV-2 from them.
    – Philipp
    Dec 23 '20 at 15:31
  • 6
    @Philipp In this case, you can certainly get stronger than "there is no evidence for that." For example, if scientists mixed SARS-CoV-2 into various kinds of foods, and then measured them an hour later and found that there are no detectable levels of viable virions, that would be stronger evidence against transmission via food than a simple "there is no evidence for that." Dec 23 '20 at 15:43
  • 3
    @TannerSwett They would then still say: "We performed the experiment and found that there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can survive on food". That's simply how scientists communicate. The reason is that it still does not prove a negative. Maybe their detection method was flawed. Maybe they used the wrong food. Maybe there was some contamination in the lab which killed the virions. Maybe they tested the wrong virus strain. Maybe, maybe, maybe... This is why serious scientists never say "we disproved this". A small doubt always remains. So they say "there is no evidence".
    – Philipp
    Dec 23 '20 at 15:49
  • 6
    @Philipp I think the issue is that "there's no evidence for that" can mean "research was and found no evidence" but it could also mean "no research has been done". Ideally scientists should mean the former but it's common for doctors (in my experience) to use the phrase for both meanings interchangeably.
    – JimmyJames
    Dec 23 '20 at 16:04
  • 2
    We cannot research everything. We cannot prevent everything. We have to decide what to work on, and given that we know for sure it spreads via airborne droplets, because there's tons of evidence for that, and given that we have no evidence to suggest it spreads through food, it's obvious that we should focus our research efforts on the things we do know for sure are a problem, rather than on dangers which we don't even know are real.
    – barbecue
    Dec 23 '20 at 21:46
0

People have been studying how the coronavirus spreads. Because foodborne illnesses are common, it is standard procedure to check for patterns of foodborne transmission: That is, several people who ate the same thing all getting the disease afterwards. Because of the scope of the pandemic, we have a lot of data to check for such occurences and thus the absence of a single documented case is very strong empiric evidence that it can't happen under normal circumstances.

If the purely empirical data doesn't satisfy you, you will probably need to wait and hope someone does some experiments to explain why exactly transmission doesn't happen over food (or maybe someone would need to do an actual literature search instead of 5 minutes of googling). Covid-19 can survive the acidity of the stomach according to this open access study, so that easiest of possible explanations can sadly be ruled out. According to this page, there is a study that showed MERS-Cov can survive for some time in milk, but is deactivated by pasteurizing and no similar studies for Covid-19 exist.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.