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CorOnavirus & Packaging

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food Packaging Forum helps to gather, summarize, and communicate relevant information related to food packaging and human health


The spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has had impacts across all sectors. As health authorities and scientists around the world work towards identifying solutions to bring the situation under control, the Food Packaging Forum is monitoring the situation closely.This page serves as a resource providing an overview of relevant scientific studies, government and stakeholder communications, and upcoming events related to SARS-CoV-2 and food packaging. It will be regularly updated as the situation develops. 
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Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient. Credit: NIAID

Scientific studies

May 3, 2022: SARS-CoV-2 stable on glass packaging but deactivated through washing

Scientific study led by German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment finds that coronaviruses are stable on glass food containers for up to 21 days in the dark but that dishwashing with detergents effectively removes the virus

July 13, 2021: No transfer of SARS-CoV-2 from contaminated hands to plastic and stainless steel

Scientific study led by Bureau of Microbial Hazards at Health Canada finds that human coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, do not transfer from contaminated hands to plastic and stainless steel

April 8, 2021: Consumer perceptions of food packaging change during pandemic

Study led by Dalhousie University finds that Canadian consumers were 55% more concerned about food safety since COVID-19 pandemic started, 50% became more price conscious when grocery shopping; slight decline found in motivation to reduce plastics, clear decline in support for stricter regulations and bans on single-use plastics; consumers showed increased willingness to pay for biodegradable alternatives

October 7, 2020: COVID-19 causing virus can survive 28 days on surfaces

Study led by Australian national research agency finds that infectious levels of virus can survive for up to 28 days at 20 °C on common surfaces such as glass, stainless steel and both paper and polymer banknotes

September 9, 2020: Covid-19 pandemic and food: Present knowledge, risks, consumers fears and safety

Research article focuses on summarizing the current state of knowledge related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its connection with food as a vector of infection; identifies food packaging as a key factor that needs more attention to help stop the spread of the virus

April 6, 2020: JAMA Network COVID-19 resource collection

Collection of scientific journal articles, interviews with scientists and medical professionals, and links to professional and government recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic

March 13, 2020: Packaging could be involved in spreading novel coronavirus

Study led by U.S. National Institutes of Health finds SARS-CoV-2 virus remains on plastic and stainless steel for up to three days, cardboard up to one day; raises concerns regarding packaging as a potential vector for spreading the virus, potential need to wash or quarantine packaged products at home

February 6, 2020: Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents

Literature review led by scientists from University Medicine Greifswald and Ruhr University Bochum investigating other previously known coronavirus strains and earlier experimental research on their persistence and inactivation on various surfaces. Study does not present experimental results specific to the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic


April 5, 2021: US CDC considers risk of infection via surfaces to generally be low

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes science brief on transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus via surfaces; identifies repiratory droplets as principal mode of infection, surface transmission on non-porous materials such as plastics considered low with risk of less than 1 in 10,000

February 18, 2021: US FDA dismisses food packaging as SARS-CoV-2 exposure route

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes statement that proclaims no scientific evidence for SARS-CoV-2 transmission via contaminated food or food packaging

October 22, 2020: Survival of coronavirus on surfaces

Live virus particles found on frozen food packaging in China; updated questions and answers series on coronavirus published by the German Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR)

May 18, 2020: Considerations for Restaurants and Bars

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Set of non-legally binding guiding principles for establishments to keep in mind when operating in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic; discourages reusing food containers and recommends properly washing containers if use of disposable containers not desirable or feasible

April 16, 2020: Shopping for Food During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Information for Consumers

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Advice for consumers on how to more safely shop for groceries during the pandemic, reminds consumers “there is no evidence of food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19”; wiping down packaging seen as extra precaution

April 17, 2020: Kann das neuartige Coronavirus über Lebensmittel und Gegenstände übertragen werden?

German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): Series of questions and answers related to the transmission of the virus through food and objects; communicates that there is no current evidence of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus through the surfaces of packaging

March 27, 2020: Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Series of questions and answers related to sanitation and food safety in the wake of SARS-CoV-2

March 13, 2020: List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2

US Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA): Published list of disinfectant products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2. Not necessarily comprehensive and being continuously updated

Stakeholder And media COMMUNICATIONS

November 20, 2020: China criticized for screening packaged foods for coronavirus

China finds coronavirus on food packaging from 20 countries, restricts the import of food products, does not share lab results; attracts criticism from trade partners that demand end to restriction, more information on used testing methods; WTO meeting to reconcile conflict not successful

August 25, 2020: Greenpeace report on reusables

Greenpeace launches report on reusables, argues that ‘reusables are doable’ also during the pandemic, which thus should not be used as an excuse to stick with throwaway plastics

August 13, 2020: Coronavirus detected on food packaging

Packaging of frozen food tested positive for coronavirus in Chinese cities; no evidence of new infections after large-scale testing campaign; experts consider risk of transmission via food and packaging to be low

July 13, 2020: Zero Waste Nation podcast discusses pandemic and food packaging

Latest episode of podcast produced by Zero Waste Norway features Jane Muncke from the Food Packaging Forum; emphasizes that reusable food containers can be safely cleaned and sanitized in food establishments, no reason to rely solely on single-use items

July 4, 2020: COVID-19 Is Laying Waste to Many U.S. Recycling Programs

Article published by research scientists in The Conversation discusses the growing amounts of household waste being collected across the US, which is being attributed largely to a rise in plastic packaging waste caused by the response to the pandemic and posing challenges for recycling programs

June 18, 2020: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) and COVID-19

Collaborative on Health and Environment (CHE) hosts webinar featuring presentations from Linda Birnbaum, Aly Cohen, and John Peterson Myers discussing the impacts of EDCs on health during the COVID-19 pandemic

June 15, 2020: ES&T article scrutinizes claims made about reusable bags, COVID-19

Article in Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) critical of safety concerns raised by industry association related to reusable shopping bags, argues their infrequent handling poses less risk than other transmission pathways; explains that single-use paper bags would be safer option than plastic due to lower virus survival time

June 10, 2020: Presentation on food packaging, reuse, and COVID-19

Food Packaging Forum presentation provides an overview of the multi-stakeholder debate related to the safety of reusable food packaging during the COVID-19 pandemic; reviews calls for action from industry associations, NGOs, and recommendations from governments

June 1, 2020: Recycling coalition asks Congress to pass EPR bill over plastics-backed RECOVER amid relief talks

Article by Waste Dive reports on letter from coalition of 100 environmental groups, recyclers, and public health advocates calling on  US government to prioritize recycling in future pandemic relief legislation; advocates for lawmakers to pass Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act and against industry-backed RECOVER Act

May 26, 2020: FAQ on COVID-19 and zero waste

Zero Waste Europe creates webpage dedicated to providing updates and resources related to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and the zero waste movement; covers the pandemic’s impact on reuse, collection and recycling, waste incineration, delivery services, single use items, and other relevant topics

May 22, 2020: CDC Consultant, Dr. Ben Locwin, speaks to UPSTREAM about CDC guidelines for restaurants

Epidemiologist discusses reuse with UPSTREAM, comments on recent guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encouraging restaurants to use disposable food containers and utensils; explains that disposable products are not necessarily safer alternatives

May 11, 2020: Factsheet on safety of reuse during COVID-19 pandemic

UPSTEAM publication answers seven frequently asked questions on the safety of reusable products such as packaging and food service ware; emphasizes that single-use products are not safer than reusable ones, food safety regulations ensure proper cleaning and sanitation of reusable products

April 28, 2020: COVID-19 challenging EPR and single-use legislation

Pandemic causes delays in advancing extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation across US states; increased demand for single-use packaging and plastic bags in Thailand hinders earlier efforts

April 21, 2020: COVID-19 to not delay EU single use plastic directive

Industry association request to delay pending restrictions denied by European Commission; member states are still expected to implement the directive into their national laws by the original deadline

April 21, 2020: Article discusses toxic chemical exposure and COVID-19

Environmental Health News calls for reducing public’s exposure to toxic chemicals within food packaging, processed foods; cites studies linking COVID-19 death risk to existing chronic conditions, calls out chemicals as exacerbating the problem

April 8, 2020: Safer disinfectant use during the COVID-19 pandemic

Western States Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) provides compact guidance document on household cleaning during the pandemic and on the safe use of disinfection products

April 7, 2020: Webinar on COVID-19 and zero waste

Zero Waste Europe webinar examines how to prioritize public health while still progressing towards zero waste lifestyle during pandemic, features speakers from association for sustainable resource management (ACR+) and the Food Packaging Forum

April 3, 2020: How to properly wipe down your groceries

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta demonstrates the proper way to wipe down grocery or take-out items, and how to remove contaminated gloves without compromising your hands

March 25, 2020: Pandemic providing opportunity for packaging innovation, resilience

Episode of The Indisposable Podcast discusses coronavirus pandemic and how reusable packaging could expand and innovate to help businesses protect public health, save money, and increase resilience; interview with Jane Muncke, managing director of the Food Packaging Forum, discusses how a shift backward to single-use packaging not needed

March 18, 2020: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)—Fighting Products

Industry association American Chemistry Council (ACC) publishes answers to frequently asked questions addressing a compiled list of products that have been pre-approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against emerging enveloped viral pathogens and can be used during the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak

March 17, 2020: Reusable food packaging and novel coronavirus

NGO UPSTREAM encourages consumers to continue using reusable items with regular washing using soap, expects zero-waste efforts and bring-your-own container programs to further gain momentum after pandemic ends; expanded business models needed to promote sanitizing and reusing packaging

March 16, 2020: “Beware of simplifications” (“Vorsicht vor Vereinfachungen”)

Podcast interviewing the virologist Christian Drosten about recently published studies of the survival time of SARS-CoV-2 virus on surfaces; Drosten cautions that the extrapolation of the data to real life situations is difficult and expects the virus to not be on surfaces after 8 hours (interview in German)

March 12, 2020: The science of soap – here’s how it kills the coronavirus

U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports on the effectiveness of soap in inactivating SARS-CoV-2
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