Cornell Takes on Food & Covid-19

The Lempert Report
December 16, 2020

The Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University has a new mentorship project designed to help food businesses and consumers struggling with the impact of COVID-19 in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Kenya, Nepal and Senegal.

This follows the launch earlier this spring for U.S.-based commercial food processors and consumers, including a comprehensive website and live office hours.

“The food systems in our target countries are fragile and highly susceptible to ramifications from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D. ’97, the Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). “It’s essential that we support infrastructure and provide guidance for managing this unprecedented challenge to food security.”

There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through food or food packaging, but the food industry must implement measures to manage the risks associated with COVID-19 within its workforce. Reducing person-to-person transmission across the food system, from farming to harvest and processing, can prevent shutdowns of processing facilities, reduce disruptions in the supply chain and help stabilize the food supply.

“In the end, basic control strategies are the best guidance for controlling COVID-19, and these are the same in the United States and abroad,” said Aljosa Trmcic, project co-principal investigator and extension associate in the Dairy Foods Extension Program (CALS). “The challenge really lies in achieving consistent implementation.”

“The pandemic is global, but we learned from our collaborators that misinformation about cures and contamination is actually quite specific to countries and regions,” said Beth Demmings, Ph.D. ’11, project manager and co-principal investigator.

In addition to FAQ videos, the task force will be holding live virtual office hours to field COVID-19-related questions from an international audience. The first, held on Dec. 11, reached farmers, food industry workers and consumers in Nepal.