What you need to know about eating seafood and COVID-19
Farmed finfish and shellfish are a safe choice for consumers say a diverse group of scientists
If there is one animal protein that you can consume without concern during the current COVID-19 pandemic, its seafood, say a plethora of scientists who presented their findings in a new study.
The peer-reviewed paper, which was published in Asian Fisheries Science concludes SARS-CoV-2 cannot infect aquatic food animals, and that the virus has no direct role in spreading COVID-19 to humans.
The paper, in response to some rumours about seafood and COVID-19, was authored by aquatic animal health, aquaculture, fisheries, food safety and veterinary specialists from organisations including the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
“Decreased consumption of aquatic food animals has been reported in some countries, in part due to misconceptions regarding the risk of viral transmission,” the paper said, stressing that aquatic animals – including farmed finfish and shellfish – are still a safe choice for consumers.
“Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that SARS-CoV-2 can infect aquatic food animals (eg finfish, crustaceans, molluscs, amphibians) and therefore these animals do not play an epidemiological role in spreading COVID-19 to humans. Aquatic food animals and their products, like any other surface, may potentially become contaminated with SARS-CoV-2, especially when handled by people who are infected with the virus. Nevertheless, with proper food handling and sanitation, the likelihood of contamination of aquatic animals or their products with SARS-CoV-2 should be negligible,” the scientists said.
Here are the key conclusions form the paper;
- SARS-CoV-2, the cause of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in humans, is not known to infect aquatic animals used as food nor contaminate their products.
- Aquatic food animals do not play an epidemiological role in spreading COVID-19 to humans; thus, there is an additional benefit to their consumption, as they are known to be a healthy source of animal protein. This should be communicated to all stakeholders and the public to clear up any misconceptions regarding this virus.
- As with any surface, aquatic food animals and their products may potentially become contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 when handled by people who are infected and actively shedding the virus. While the actual risk of contact with contaminated products is unknown, seafood is safe to consume, as long as it is prepared and served in accordance with recommended hygiene and food safety measures.
- The COVID-19 pandemic may indirectly affect livelihoods, food security and nutrition for populations that rely on aquatic animals as a source of food or income, due to lockdown measures. However, it may also lead to an increase in local community consumption and/or utilisation of aquatic food animals due to limited transportation and trade away from the fishing and harvesting communities or limited supplies of alternative sources of animal proteins.
- The health of humans is interrelated with the health of animals and the environment, a concept known as “One Health”; therefore, the health of all living organisms is of paramount importance. Good aquaculture practices and biosecurity allow the production of a healthy source of aquatic animal protein.
- To date, there are many unknowns regarding SARS-CoV-2. As new information becomes available through peer-reviewed studies, we should continuously improve our understanding of the virus and assess any potential risks to fishery and aquaculture food systems that may arise.
To view the full paper go here