The risk of being infected with the coronavirus via packaging or bags is categorised as very low by the WHO and the healthcare authorities. There have been no confirmed cases of this form of transmission. Photo: Photo by Imants Kaziļuns on Unsplash
Is the virus present on packaging?
At the beginning of the corona pandemic, an overwhelming number of scientists and virologists still believed that the SARS-CoV2 virus was transmitted by smear infections. However, today the majority believe that the virus is airborne. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) explains it thus on their website: “The main transmission path for SARS-CoV-2 is respiratory intake of particles containing the virus that are created by breathing, coughing, speaking, singing and sneezing.” The particles containing the virus thus spread from person to person via aerosol.
However, transmission via contaminated surfaces, particularly those in the immediate vicinity of infectious patients, should not be excluded according to the RKI. This is because SARS-CoV-2 viruses that are capable of multiplying can remain infectious for some time on surfaces under laboratory conditions. Is this also true of packaging? Do we have to assume that packaging presents an increased infectious risk for COVID-19 based on this?
Even if transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is far from being fully understood, the specialists are saying that no increased risk of infection is posed by packaging for the corona pandemic. Consumer rights organisations do however advise that you should continue to adhere to general routine hygiene rules, such as regular hand washing, when handling food and necessities.
Do we need protection when shopping because the virus could potentially be on the packaging? Photo: Photo by Nathan Van de Graaf on Unsplash
DO I HAVE TO CLEAN THE PACKAGING?
Some people are concerned about whether you can infect yourself with SARS-CoV-2 if it is on a surface, such as the surface of packaging, and wonder whether they should wash or disinfect their goods after shopping.
Martin Lappann, Microbiology Manager at the packaging company Tetra Pak, says that this is not necessary and provides reassurance. The virus only multiplies in its infected human (or animal) hosts. In contrast, bacteria or fungi can grow in many areas, provided that the conditions allow it.
“The virus is released from its host by coughing or sneezing, or by touching an object. Subsequent infection that results from uptake of the virus from a contaminated surface is extremely unlikely as a viral infection can only be triggered by a high quantity of infectious viral particles (...). The number of viral particles required for an infection is difficult to collect from a contaminated surface as the SARS-CoV-2 virus quickly becomes inactive on surfaces outside the host,” explains the expert.
There is only a negligible risk, which can be prevented by implementing standard hygiene measures, such as frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with the mouth, eyes and nose.
NO INFECTION FROM PACKAGING
Lappan’s statements are confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among others. The risk of being infected with the coronavirus via food, food packaging or bags is ranked as very low and and there have, as yet, been no confirmed cases of a COVID-19 infection in which it was suspected that the infection was caused by touching food, food packaging or shopping bags.