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COVID-19 risk from food 'negligible'

Clusters of COVID-19 around a Melbourne meat works and McDonald's outlet shouldn't endanger their customers' health.

And the risk of going to a newly opened cafe or restaurant is far more likely to be what's in the air rather than on your plate.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand says there's no evidence of COVID-19 infection through food, food packaging or drink, citing advice from the World Health Organisation and other health authorities.

"COVID-19 is a respiratory disease spreading from person to person. It's not a foodborne disease," FSANZ says on its website.

Associate Professor Julian Cox, a food microbiologist at the University of NSW, says the risk of contracting the virus by eating is "either negligible or nothing".

Firstly the risk of the virus being present in food was "very, very low", then the risk of it transferring to a mucous membrane in the upper respiratory tract in the process of chewing, swallowing and digestion was also "very low indeed".

He even rates the risk of contracting coronavirus from a contaminated surface via food as lower than the overall risk of contracting the virus.

And in cafes and restaurants, Prof Cox says by far the greatest risk will be from other patrons carrying the virus.

"We've been talking about one-and-a-half or two metre social distancing, but droplets may actually travel further and last longer so the risk is probably higher than we first envisaged," he told AAP on Tuesday.

"But if the people involved in the restaurant are doing the right thing in terms of food and personal hygiene the risk of transferring the virus to the food is very low indeed. Then the risk of picking that up through consumption is similarly very low."

Prof Cox said a possible "silver lining" to the pandemic was that improved hand-washing and other hygiene practices - such as keeping hands away from faces - may lead to less food poisoning.

The antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or golden staph, could be transferred by people picking pimples or their nose, then handling food.

"If we see that people have improved hygiene through the COVID-19 situation hopefully that improves food safety," he said.

So far 100 coronavirus cases have been linked to the Cedar Meats abattoir and 11 to the Fawkner McDonald's outlet.

© AAP 2020