Risks of Food-borne Coronavirus Transmission

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has put significant burden on the food industry. Several COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in meat and poultry processing operations, requiring the industry to re-evaluate the personnel safety programs. The pandemic is disrupting U.S. food distribution and marketing, reducing demand for key agricultural commodities, and producing severe financial hardships for food producers. While the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread is mainly from person to person via respiratory droplets, the lack of understanding about the survival of the virus in the air and its ability to infect subsequently have raised concerns. COVID-19 outbreaks in meat and other food processing plants have raised concerns for potential foodborne spread. In response to the challenges faced by the food industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, UGA scientists in poultry science have written publications to educate stakeholders about the risks associated with the SARS-CoV2 virus and its management. Additionally, they collaborated with experts in the field from Agri-food Canada, USDA-ARS, and North Carolina State University and developed educational materials in the form of infosheets, adaptations of CDC guidelines, and peer-reviewed publications as resources for the food industry. They have further collaborated with Kansas State University to secure USDA-NIFA funding to translate science-based information on the risks of coronaviruses for the food industry.