Respiratory viruses in foods and their potential transmission through the diet: A review of the literature

Environ Res. 2021 Jan 30;195:110826. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.110826. Online ahead of print.


Respiratory viruses are the main agents causing respiratory tract diseases. Nowadays, coronaviruses - and specifically, SARS-CoV-1, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 - are the principal responsible for the major epidemic outbreaks of the 21st century. The major routes of transmission for respiratory viruses - including coronaviruses - are via direct and indirect contacts. However, transmission through contaminated foods has not been extensively assessed. The present paper was aimed at reviewing scientific data on the transmission of respiratory viruses through potentially contaminated foods. While the current data seem to suggest that this route of transmission is not likely to occur, in order to increase the knowledge on this issue further investigations are still clearly necessary for a more complete prevention of the risks. Studies should include fresh produce and cooked foods. Anyway, prevention measures and good hygienic practices for both consumers and workers are mandatory when handling and cooking foods.

Keywords: Foods; Infectivity; Respiratory viruses; SARS-CoV-2; Stability.