The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published research on the survival of coronavirus (Covid-19) on food packaging and foods.
The research was commissioned by the FSA and conducted by the University of Southampton.
In the study, researchers deliberately added the Covid-19 virus to most types of food packaging, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) trays and bottles, aluminium cans and composite drinks cartons.
The FSA said these materials were chosen as they are widely used and consumption from them may involve direct mouth contact with the packaging.
The study found that the virus’ lifespan depends on the food packaging and foods examined.
All packaging materials examined saw a ‘significant drop’ in virus contamination in the first 24 hours, in all relative humidity conditions and at both 6°C and 21°C.
Researchers also studied the virus survival on the surface of foods such as fruits and vegetables, cheese, meats, bread and pastries.
The virus was found to survive for several days on foods like cheese and ham, while it decreased quickly on items such as apples and olives.
The study comes after the FSA published a risk assessment in 2020 that determined that the chances of humans receiving the Covid-19 virus from food were very low.
FSA microbiology risk assessment team leader Anthony Wilson said: “In the early stages of the pandemic, we didn’t know much about how the virus would survive on different food surfaces and packaging, so the risk assessment was based on a worst-case assumption.
“This research gives us additional insight into the stability of coronavirus on the surfaces of a variety of foods and confirms that assumptions we made in the early stages of the pandemic were appropriate and that the probability that you can catch Covid via food is very low.”