Coronavirus (COVID-19) food and safety advice for consumers

It is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the primary transmission route is through person-to-person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Risk to consumers from 'open food'

As usual, it is important to maintain good hygiene practices around open food (unpackaged bread, cakes etc).

However, it is possible that infected food workers and/or consumers could introduce the virus to food, by coughing and sneezing, or through hand contact. It is therefore important that they strictly follow good personal hygiene practices. Customers and food businesses are expected to behave in a hygienic manner and food businesses are obliged to monitor such displays.

Even if people are not displaying symptoms, they can be carrying the virus for up to 14 days before they display symptoms, so it is important that everyone maintains good hygiene practices and hand washing.

Food is not directly involved in the transmission of COVID-19. The main risk of transmission is from close contact with infected people. Hence the advice to public and staff alike is to wash your hands.

Reduce your chances of becoming infected

You can reduce your chances of being infected or infecting others by taking the following precautions:

  • follow the government advice on wearing a face covering in public places
  • regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water
  • washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands
  • maintain at least 2 metres (6 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is not a member of your household

When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth: hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.