One of the biggest doubts of consumers is whether it is safe to receive market purchases, delivery food packaging or labels applied by hand.

At this time (July 2020) it is not possible to definitively answer this question. What can be said is that it is relatively safe, and packages represent a low risk of contagion according to official sources.

How COVID-19 behaves on different surfaces

How long does the coronavirus survive on different materials?

The biggest questions about packaging safety come from charts like the one below, about how long the virus is able to survive on different surfaces.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, linked to the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours in plastic and stainless steel, less than 4 hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard.

However, this is only part of the answer. It is necessary to consider that:

  • Most of the studies were carried out in environments with a high level of contamination, such as hospitals, for example.
  • It is unclear whether the virus surviving on surfaces is active enough to infect a person.
  • People who come into contact with potentially infected surfaces often also have close contact with the infected person, making it difficult to distinguish between respiratory droplet transmission and surface transmission. (PAHO/WHO)

However, transmission by fomites [contaminated surfaces] is considered a probable mode of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, given the consistent findings about contamination of the environment in the vicinity of infected cases and the fact that other coronaviruses and respiratory viruses can be transmitted in this way.

(PAHO/WHO)

What are the recommendations for adhesive labels and packaging?

The fact that the WHO maintains surface contamination as a possible form of contagion does not mean that extreme concern is necessary, as both the WHO and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration - United States) claim that it is safe to handle packaging, and both The institutions also reinforce that there is no proven case of contagion of the new coronavirus through contaminated surfaces:

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, transported, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures is also low.

(PAHO/WHO)

Can I get the coronavirus from food, food packaging, or food containers and preparation area?
Currently there is no evidence of food, food containers, 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.


[Translation:]
Can I catch coronavirus from food, packaging or staging areas?
There is currently no evidence of food, packaging, or staging areas 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.

(FDA/USA)

Should I sanitize purchases, packaging and orders?

The institutions' response is unclear. According to the WHO, The most important thing to know about the presence of coronavirus on surfaces is that they can be easily cleaned with common household disinfectants, which kill the virus.

The FDA also puts it in its recommendations to wash your hands thoroughly after handling food packaging, before preparing it, and before eating.

Hands should be cleaned frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or sanitized with an alcohol-based hand rub. Surfaces in contact with different materials and exposed to different people, such as customer service counters, should be cleaned and disinfected frequently. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose.

The widespread use of masks also helps to reduce contamination of packaging and surfaces, preventing the spread of contaminated droplets, as well as reducing the likelihood of person-to-person contagion. Always wear masks when receiving orders, products and food, to protect you and the delivery man.

How my adhesive labels and packaging behave in relation to coronavirus

Ordinary packaging and labels now also undergo a cleaning process by the consumer, which can cause the label to fall apart or the information to erase, especially in the case of thermal printing. In some cases, alcohol is able to erase the printing ink.

Sources:
PAHO/WHO - https://iris.paho.org/handle/10665.2/52472
PAHO/WHO - https://www.paho.org/bra/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6101:covid19&Itemid=875
FDA/USA – https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-frequently-asked-questions#food

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