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Studies, Guidance on Coronavirus Residency on Surfaces and Product Safety

In light of the rapidly evolving coronavirus challenge, AF&PA has compiled information and resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including on issues such as workplace safety, scientific studies, economic relief programs, general information, environmental compliance flexibility, shelter-in-place orders and critical business exemptions. Much of the information has been compiled from third-party sources, and none of the information is, nor should it in any way be construed as, legal, health or any other form of advice, nor can we attest to the reliability, accuracy or completeness of the information. We hope this is helpful as a basic general information resource. This website is subject to change as new information comes to our attention. 

A listing of scientific studies, global and national health organizations’ guidance and transportation organizations statements about the coronavirus on surfaces and product safety. 

Scientific Studies 

  • National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), “Coronavirus Information Relevant to the Forest Products Industry” (NCASI website includes summaries of scientific studies on coronavirus residency time on packaging and other paper materials): https://www.ncasi.org/coronavirus-information-relevant-to-the-forest-products-industry/ 
  • The Lancet, "Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions", A new study in the journal The Lancet reported on the stability of SARS-CoV-2 on various surfaces in different environmental conditions.  The authors stated that no infectious virus could be recovered from printing and tissue papers after a 3-hour incubation, whereas no infectious virus could be detected from treated wood and cloth on day 2. By contrast, SARS-CoV-2 was more stable on smooth surfaces. No infectious virus could be detected from treated smooth surfaces on day 4 (glass and banknote) or day 7 (stainless steel and plastic).  The authors also note that special techniques were required to recover the virus from objects and, therefore, this recovery of the virus does not necessarily reflect the potential to pick up the virus from casual contact. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666524720300033
  • Pre-print Article, “Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1”, New England Journal of Medicine: (“On cardboard, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 24 hours.”): https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMc2004973?articleTools=true 
  • Journal of Hospital Infection Article, “Persistence of Coronaviruses on Inanimate Surfaces and their Inactivation with Biocidal Agents” (Includes survival times of coronaviruses on various surfaces including paper and wood): https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195670120300463 

Guidance on Safety of Packaging, Mail and Other Paper Products

  • World Health Organization (WHO) Guidance:  
    • (Q&A, “Is it safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported?”) “Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”  https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidance: 
    • (Q&A, “How long does the virus survive on surfaces?”) 
      “It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html
    • (Q&A, “Am I at risk for COVID-19 from a package or products  shipping from China?”)
      “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.”
      https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019ncov/faq.html#anchor_1584386949645
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Guidance:   
  • U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams:
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions,” Food Safety:
    • Q: Can I become sick with coronavirus (COVID-19) from food?
      A: We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods. 
    • Q: Are meat products compromised by the Coronavirus?
      A: We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.
    • Q: Is FSIS taking any extra precautions when receiving food products from nations that have confirmed cases of COVID-19?
      A: We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.
    • Q: Is food imported to the United States from China and other countries affected by COVID-19 at risk of spreading COVID-19?
      A: Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.
    • Q: Are food products produced in the United States a risk for the spread of COVID-19?
      A: There is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19.
    • Q: Can I get sick with COVID-19 from touching food, the food packaging, or food contact surfaces, if the coronavirus was present on it?
      A: Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety — clean, separate, cook, and chill. 
      https://www.usda.gov/coronavirus 
  • U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Statement on Coronavirus: 
    • “Importantly, the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html), the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses), as well as the Surgeon General have indicated that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail.”

      “Specifically, according to the World Health Organization, “the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and been exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.” And according to the CDC, “in general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.”                https://about.usps.com/newsroom/statements/usps-statement-on-coronavirus.htm
  • FedEx Statement on Coronavirus:
  • UPS Statement on Coronavirus: 
    • “Compliance with applicable government regulations related to the containment of Coronavirus.”: 
      “Careful guidance and information being provided to our staff across the globe regarding the best ways to prevent the spread of infection, based on guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and, within the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
      https://www.ups.com/us/en/about/news/important-updates.page 

Press Stories on Safety of Paper Products