The spread of the newly discovered SARS-CoV-2 virus and its disease COVID-19 pose great challenges for all of us. Available information about this pathogen are abundant and hard to comb through. Therefore, the Swiss Society for Food Hygiene (SGLH) and the Institute for Food Safety by the University of Zurich (ILS UZH) provide a guide, making it easier to access trustworthy and timely information relevant for the food processing and food safety industry. This is our contribution to maintaining a robust and safe food supply for the public. Below are useful links to expert resources that can help answer your specific questions. We will constantly add to and update these resources.
Bundesamt für Gesundheit (BAG) Informationen (Deutsch)
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Situation worldwide (Englisch)
World Health Organisation (WHO) Information (Englisch)
Karte mit aktuellen Fallzahlen nach Kantonen (Deutsch)
Map covid cases worldwide (Englisch)
Zeitlicher Verlauf der Fallzahlentwicklung in der Schweiz (Deutsch)
Number of cases over time worldwide (Englisch)
Robert Koch-Institut (RKI) Steckbrief zu COVID19 (Deutsch)
Phylogenetische Entwicklung von SARS-CoV-2
Sammlung wissenschaftlicher Literatur, The Lancet
Vorgaben für die Lebensmittelproduktion – Herstellungsbetriebe inkl. Kantinen und Take-Away, BLV (Deutsch)
Transmission through food packaging is unlikely, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (Deutsch)
Übertragung durch Lebensmittel unwahrscheinlich, Bundesamt für Risikobewertung (BfR) (Deutsch)
Transmission through food packaging is unlikely, The Scientist Magazine (Englisch)
FAQ zu Corona in der Lebensmittelindustrie, EU (Deutsch)
COVID-19 and Food Safety and its Implications, Challenges and Solutions for the Food Industry, IUFoST/CIFST (Englisch)
Information for the Food Industry, Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University (Englisch)
Erstellen eines Pandemieplans, Hygienenetzwerk (Deutsch)
Risk Management Strategy Checklist, Cornell University (Englisch)
Manufacturing of Hand sanitiser (Englisch)
Informationen zur Kurzarbeit (Deutsch)
Bewegungstipps für jedes Alter, Bundesamt für Sport (Deutsch)
Where can I find information about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease COVID-19 it causes?
The Bundesamt für Gesundheit (BAG) offers well-founded information on the disease, its course, its treatment and protection recommendations in German, French, Italian and English. Here you will also find instructions on self-isolation and self-quarantine, as well as explanations of the current federal measures.
The BAG also offers a 24 hour Corona Virus Infoline at +41 58 463 00 00.
Where can I find information for the food sector?
The Bundesamt für Lebensmittelsicherheit und Veterinärwesen (BLV) provides well-founded information for the food sector in Switzerland on its website in German, French and Italian.
Do cashiers have to wear gloves?
No. However, the BAG recommendations on hygiene and social distance must also be adhered to here and hands must be cleaned before handling food.
Do I have to completely pack or disinfect fruits, vegetables or bread that are sold over the counter?
No, special measures are not necessary. However, the hygiene concept in accordance with food law must be adhered to.
Are there still food inspections?
Yes, the cantonal enforcement authorities continue to carry out risk-based food inspections.
Can grocery stores, canteens, restaurants for hotel guests, etc. continue to operate?
The closure of publicly accessible facilities until April 19, 2020 affects shops, markets and restaurants. Not affected are: grocery stores, kiosks, petrol station shops, take-away snack bars, company canteens, delivery services for meals and restaurants for hotel guests. Detailed information is contained in Ordinance 2 on Measures to Fight the Coronavirus (COVID-19) (COVID-19 Ordinance 2), amendment of March 16, 2020.
Can farm shops remain open?
The sale of food from the farm is still permitted, but integrated catering for customers (broom picking, etc.) is not permitted. The recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health with regard to the distance rule and general hygiene rules must be strictly observed.
Can public markets (e.g. vegetable markets) remain open?
Markets are prohibited because they are publicly accessible facilities that are subject to Art. 6 Paragraph 2 lit. a of the COVID-19 regulation 2.
I have switched my business to take-away or delivery service. What do I have to consider?
A report to the cantonal enforcement authority is necessary. The self-concept must be adapted and implemented. In addition, the operation of the activity must be set up accordingly and comply with both the requirements of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 and the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health regarding hygiene and social distance. The number of people present must be limited accordingly and crowds must be prevented. In addition, no seats may be offered and seating (including outside seating) must be blocked.
Do employers need to protect particularly vulnerable people?
Yes. People at particular risk work from home. If this is not possible, they will be given leave with continued payment of their wages.
What measures do I have to take to ensure the health protection of employees?
The food industry must comply with the recommendations of the federal government regarding hygiene and social distance. This includes that the number of people present in companies is limited and max. 5 people at the same time in break rooms and canteens. If the 2 meter distance cannot be maintained for a long time due to production reasons (slaughterhouse, industrial production of pizza and other ready-made meals), other suitable health protection measures must be taken. The Federal Office for Food Safety and Consumer Protection lists possible measures here, e.g. the constant wearing of protective clothing and protective masks or a separation of employees by plexiglass walls.
Can SARS-CoV-2 be transmitted through food and drinking water?
So far, there are no data that suggest that the pathogen is transmitted through food. Everyone can minimize their personal risk of infection by holding their hands as little as possible and washing their hands regularly and thoroughly with soap. You can find detailed protection recommendations on the homepage of the Federal Office of Public Health.
Can SARS-CoV-2 be transmitted through food packaging?
So far, there is no data that suggest that the pathogen is transmitted via food packaging. Since coronaviruses are generally difficult to survive on surfaces and many packaged foods are transported or stored longer before they reach the end customer, the risk of transmission or spread through food packaging is very low.
How long does the pathogen survive on different surfaces and packaging materials?
SARS-CoV-2 is spread far more frequently via droplet transfer / aerosols than via objects. Initial laboratory tests show that SARS-CoV-2, after severe contamination, can be used on plastic for up to 72 hours, on stainless steel for up to 48 hours, on copper surfaces for up to 4 hours, on cardboard and copper for only 24 or 4 hours. The pathogen was able to survive for 3 hours in aerosols. Good hand hygiene and frequent, thorough hand washing can greatly reduce the risk of transmission.
Which treatments kill SARS-CoV-2?
Based on data on other SARS-CoV-2, it is assumed that pasteurization and dehydration (6 days) inactivate the pathogen. However, protein-containing matrices can protect the pathogen from inactivation. Freezing food is not a reliable means of killing the pathogen. Little is known about the effect of UV radiation on SARS-CoV-2. From closely related coronaviruses, it is known that the killing effect of UV radiation on these pathogens varies greatly depending on the dose and wavelength.
Can I get SARS-CoV-2 through animals or animal products?
Based on experience with other coronaviruses, food transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely. So far, there is also no evidence that farm animals, wild animals or domestic animals kept in Switzerland, Germany and Austria play a role in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
Should people working in food production wear face masks and gloves?
Protective materials such as protective masks, glasses, aprons and gloves are currently difficult to obtain due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and must be used carefully. Wearing protective masks in connection with SARS-CoV-2 is recommended by the FOPH for health professionals who care for or advise people with COVID-19. People involved in food production should continue to follow Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). This includes common hygiene regulations for personal hygiene and especially good hand hygiene. In some production facilities, wearing e.g. Gloves to the hygiene concept and this can continue to be done. However, it should be noted that this does not prevent cross-contamination and transmissions.
Do the surfaces of production facilities have to be tested for SARS-CoV-2?
SARS-CoV-2 is not considered a food-associated pathogen and transmission through food is unlikely. Appropriate tests are not recommended. The usual cleaning and disinfection measures within the framework of good manufacturing practice must always be followed.