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Infectious Covid-19 can survive on some groceries for days, study finds

Under certain conditions, the virus was detectable on vegetables like peppers for several days.

Recent tests conducted for the Food Standards Agency revealed that the virus that causes Covid-19 can live on some food items for days.


The SARS-CoV-2 virus was purposely spread on packaging and food, including fruit and bottled beverages, during laboratory tests. Scientists explained that they deliberately selected food items that people might eat without cooking or cleaning.


The results varied, with most foods tested having a significant drop in levels of virus contamination over the first 24 hours. But for peppers, bread crust, ham and cheese the infectious virus was detected for several days under some conditions.


Compared to produce with smooth skin, like apples, the virus appears to persist longer on produce with irregular surfaces, like broccoli and raspberries (although chilled or frozen food had detectable virus a week later).


For items often sold loose at grocery, deli or bakery counters such as croissants and pain au chocolate, the virus was present for several hours on the surfaces. Despite the findings, scientists have emphasised that the risk to consumers remains very low.


According to the report, the "foods and packaging considered as part of this study were artificially inoculated with Sars-Cov-2 and are therefore not a reflection of contamination levels found on these foods at retail. Lower levels of contamination will require less time to decline to undetectable levels."


“However, it is important to note that the virus may persist in an infectious state, on foods and food packaging surfaces, for several days under certain common conditions.” The study concluded with reinforcing the importance of rigorously following the recommendations on maintaining appropriate hygienic handling methods and display of unpackaged foods in stores.




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