What is the issue with food and coronavirus?

The story about coronavirus being caught from food relates to whether or not the virus is viable in your bowel. And in some studies, up to half of samples of people’s poo when they’ve got COVID-19 have detectable virus in the poo. The big question is, is it viable for virus? In other words, you might have a, sorry to be so disgusting, but you might have a cough and cold in your nose and throat, and you swallow the virus, and it goes into your bowel that way, rather than you eating it in food and then your bowel gets infected.

There’s also no question that some people with COVID-19 present with diarrhoea and very little else, maybe a bit of fatigue and diarrhoea. So, it does infect the bowel. So the question is, is there viable virus coming through the poo? Because that’s how it gets into food. People unhygienic in the bathroom, not washing their hands properly, or for long enough, with soap and water, and then going and preparing food, gets into the food and effectively becomes a form of food poisoning. That is not proven yet.

And what has been shown is that probably some of the virus in poo is viable and could be transmitted, so it’s a theoretical possibility. And the other indication that there might be something going on here, is that when they’ve done environmental scans, particularly in hospitals with COVID-19, bathrooms are full of COVID-19 virus. They are disgusting actually, and really have to be just disinfected and cleaned properly. So, something is going on in bathrooms. And flushing the toilet is an aerosolising event. It should be done with the lid down. So we should assume that yes, you can catch it from food, just to force maximum hygiene in the bathroom. When you’re coming out of the bathroom, when you’re preparing food, always wash your hands before preparing food. And just be careful.

Dr Norman Swan