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Are Supplements From China A Coronavirus Risk?

Question:
Can I get the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from supplements from China?
Reviewed and edited by Tod Cooperman, M.D. Tod Cooperman, M.D.
Initial Posting: 2/4/2020    Last Update: 4/11/2020
Coronavirus Risk With Supplements from China? -- 'Coronavirus' written on paper surrounded by supplements capsules and tablets
Answer:
Many of the ingredients used in dietary supplements come from China, although there is no requirement for a dietary supplement to list its country of origin or the origin of its ingredients. Even supplements that are "made in the U.S." may include ingredients from China, where the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2 (causing the disease known as COVID-19) is believed to have originated.

However, currently there is no reason to believe that you can catch COVID-19 it from a dietary supplement. A more likely, but still remote, concern would be exposure to coronavirus from handling the packaging of a supplement shortly after it was handled by unclean hands of an infected person, and then touching one's mouth, eyes, or nose without first washing one's hands. A study found that 2019-nCoV (also called SARS-CoV-2) (at about 72°F and 40% relative humidity) was undetectable within just one day on cardboard, although it can last 3 days on plastic (van Dormalen, NEJM (correspondence) 2020).

Bear in mind, however, that the virus survives longer at colder temperatures (Chin, Lancet 2020). This suggests that if you are going to refrigerate or freeze a supplement that you recently obtained, either throw away or disinfect the outer packaging first.

How effective are disinfectants against coronavirus?

The above mentioned study (Chin, Lancet 2020) showed that common disinfectants were effective in killing SARS-CoV-2. The virus was undetectable after 5 minutes of exposure to household bleach (at a concentration of 1:49 or 1:99), ethanol (70%), povidone-iodine (7.5%), chloroxylenol (0.05%), chlorhexidine (0.05%) and benzalkonium chloride (0.1%). Fifteen minutes were required for the virus to be undetectable when exposed to a hand soap solution. When disinfecting surfaces in your home, it's important not to apply the disinfectant and immediately wipe it away or wipe the surface dry. Allow disinfectants at least 5 minutes on surfaces before wiping them off.

For more about disinfecting, see the list of products that meet EPA's criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.

Ingredient quality is a greater concern

Problems that are more likely to be of concern with ingredients from China, as well as other parts of the world, relate to their inherent quality and purity. In 2019, 50% of Chinese manufacturing facilities inspected by the FDA were out of compliance with regulations, particularly by failing to follow procedures meant to ensure ingredient quality. Interestingly, an even higher percentage of U.S. facilities -- 52% -- were out of compliance. For this reason, all products that ConsumerLab reviews are tested for key compounds relating to their identity, and products that include significant amounts of whole herbs or minerals are tested for heavy metals.

Be aware that many supplements are being promoted online to boost the immune system and prevent or treat the coronavirus, and some websites and social media posts are recommending taking dangerously high doses of certain vitamins and minerals. Learn more about the evidence, and safety of supplements being promoted to fight COVID-19.

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COMMENTS

Gale19607   April 21, 2020
Concerning disinfecting Covid 19 from surfaces, our procedure has been to place our
groceries on an outside picnic table and SPRAY them thoroughly with an isopropyl
alcohol solution diluted 1:49 and leave the groceries there until the packaging dries (usually
30 min.). Is it reasonable to assume the virus is killed with this method instead of wiping
down each package?

ConsumerLab.com   April 29, 2020
Please see the CDC guidelines for using alcohol for disinfecting surfaces https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html.

Jim19260   April 1, 2020
It would be helpful to know at what temperature the corona virus is killed or inactivated.
180 degrees fahrenheit? 200 degrees fahrenheit ?

ConsumerLab.com   April 22, 2020
Hi Jim - We've added information about this in the answer above. Also see our CL Answer about heat to kill coronavirus (COVID-19): https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/heat-to-kill-coronavirus/heat-coronavirus/.

Jimmy19081   February 6, 2020
From China's National English language paper, Global Times:
https://mobile.twitter.com/globaltimesnews/status/1224326625749131265
The #coronavirus can survive for five days maximum on smooth surfaces under suitable circumstances: experts from China's Health Commission

Sam19164   March 11, 2020
I've read from many sources that it can last 9 days.

ConsumerLab.com   March 11, 2020
That may be true, but under very ideal circumstances for the virus. Unlikely this would be an issue for the consumer with regard to ingredients that would then be used in the manufacturer of a supplement. A more likely, although still remote, concern would now seem to be with the outer packaging of a product being handled by an infected person within the U.S. This could be the case with any type of product.

Peter19223   March 24, 2020
The CDC just released a report where they found Covid-19 in the rooms of infected passengers 17 days after they disembarked. It is simply too early to make definitive statements on how long this thing lasts outside of infected people.

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e3.htm?s_cid=mm6912e3_e&deliveryName=USCDC_921-DM23553

ConsumerLab.com   March 24, 2020
Yes. There was little detail given about this (such as the amount or concentration of virus) and it was apparently from a personal communication -- not a published study, but it did state the following: "SARS-CoV-2 RNA was identified on a variety of surfaces in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated on the Diamond Princess but before disinfection procedures had been conducted ."

Carole19568   April 20, 2020
From this reporting it is not clear what was tested, or when. I also want to know who reported this and what they were using to measure the virus. We also do not know if multiple rooms were tested or how the determination was made.
Such reports make me suspicious as the details make all of the difference in this conclusion.

Tod19586   April 20, 2020
It is important to note that they only reported finding viral "RNA." This does not mean that infectious viral particles were found, just some of its genetic material, which could simply indicate that virus had been present but had disintegrated.


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This CL Answer initially posted on 2/4/2020. Last updated 4/11/2020.
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