Poultry meat is an essential part of a nutritious diet for consumers globally and it remains safe to consume in the pandemic era of COVID-19 whether produced domestically or imported from abroad. Food safety is of the highest importance for the global poultry sector as all work to feed consumers globally. It is critical that governments and the private sector work together to ensure food safety, ensure global food trade, and ensure consumer access to safe and nutritious poultry meat.
Recent news of a finding of the COVID-19 virus associated with an imported poultry wing in China, of which the specific details are still to be released, have resulted in inaccurate information being written regarding the safety of imported poultry product.
First of all, to-date, no single case of transmission of COVID-19 via food packaging or food itself has been recorded.
It is important to specify that the detection of genetic material belonging to the COVID-19 virus is not an index of infectivity of the package or product sampled, but only that the tested surface has come into contact with viral material that may not be, alive, viable and infectious. Inactive fragments of the virus may remain on surfaces, but these inactive fragments cannot transmit COVID-19 and most tests cannot differentiate between inactive non-infectious virus fragments and viable virus. Therefore, caution in the interpretation of test results is required.
In accordance with the current WHO, FAO, OIE, Codex and WTO scientific understanding regarding COVID-19, this serious disease is not a food safety issue, but a respiratory illness and its primary route of transmission is person-to-person via respiratory droplets. The virus cannot multiply in food and it does not affect poultry, it can only infect people when present in its intact form.
Currently, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted by food or by meat, whether fresh or frozen. Nevertheless, the food industry continues to practice stringent food safety procedures to ensure safe food. HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) procedures that are in place globally are a systematic preventive approach to food safety biological risks, including the COVID-19 virus.
The poultry industry is fully committed to ensuring the highest level of safety at each step from the farm to the consumer, while providing for the safety of its workers, and for the continuous supply to consumers globally of high-quality protein. Attached, also is the IPC document regarding the current science, “COVID-19: Scientific Status and Ensuring Safety”.