Fondue safety concerns amid coronavirus pandemic grate on the Swiss

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By Emma Beswick  with AFP
A diner dips bread into a "caquelon" pot containing melted cheese and wine.
A diner dips bread into a "caquelon" pot containing melted cheese and wine.   -  Copyright  Image by anncapictures from Pixabay

Switzerland is currently grappling with the second wave of the coronavirus and has one of the worst surges in Europe.

The pandemic has also thrown into question if it is safe to partake in the country's national dish: fondue. 

The beloved custom involves diners dipping pieces of bread on long forks into a communal pot of hot cheese and wine.

The issue being put forward is that social distancing cannot be observed when several friends or relatives are eating from the same pan or "caquelon".

And people are understandably wary of dipping their food into a communal pot when the World Health Organisation (WHO) says the coronavirus can spread through small liquid particles from a person's mouth or nose.

But some online are arguing that a fondue among friends is still possible, depending on the technique employed.

One user suggested each guest using two forks and a knife, which are strictly not to be swapped around, one long fork to dip into the fondue, the knife to get the bread off, and the second fork to eat it.

Another had a more far-fetched idea to respect social distancing: "Eat your fondue with a fishing rod," they wrote.

Switzerland Cheese Marketing, industry body for Swiss cheese, has insisted that looked into the issue and "the risk of contracting COVID-19 while enjoying a fondue with other diners is negligible."

Health experts have even weighed in on the matter with Didier Pittet, head of the infection prevention and control service at Geneva University, saying: “A risk associated with fondue? Certainly not."

Professor Christian Ruef, a Zurich-based infectious disease specialist, reassured cheese-lovers that the risk of catching the virus did not come from the caquelon itself: "In the fondue pot, the cheese reaches a sufficient temperature to kill any virus."

But he cautioned: "The problem arises if you are seated together in a small space for an evening, and are talking loudly, laughing or even singing," he said.

"These are ideal conditions for spreading the virus."