PARMA, ITALY — No evidence currently shows that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19), according to the European Food Safety Authority, which is based in Parma.

“Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), show that transmission through food consumption did not occur,” said Marta Hugas, chief scientist for the EFSA, on March 9. “At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.”

While animals in China were the likely source of the initial infection, the virus is spreading from person to person, mainly via respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough or exhale, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The EFSA is monitoring scientific literature for new and relevant coronavirus information. The EFSA also relayed that the World Health Organization has issued precautionary recommendations, including advice on following good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, such as washing hands, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods.

Since the Italian government has issued emergency restrictions due to coronavirus outbreaks in that country, the EFSA has introduced homeworking for most of its staff and tele-meetings with experts and partners. Events, staff travel and public visits to EFSA premises have been suspended until at least April 8.