They reportedly found it in the package Ecuadorian Shrimp, squids from Russia and Norwegian seafood.
Since June, Chinese health authorities have detected genetic traces of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, on cooled down and frozen food from all over the world. Then, on October 17, the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that it had isolated active SARS-CoV-2 in imported fish packs. The agency said this the world’s first invention, created while tracing the recent outbreak in Qingdao to two dock workers, indicating contaminated food packaging can cause infection.
While it remains unclear whether dock workers actually caught COVID-19 from the seafood they handle, the government is stepping up precautionary measures. Qingdao will now examine carefully all the frozen food that comes in (after test all 9 million inhabitants), while Beijing city government owns company urgently to avoid imports of frozen food from countries hard hit by the pandemic – although not specifically stated.
Concerns over the possibility of transmission through imported food are getting higher China, which has almost eradicated domestic pathogen transmission. It is the only country that enforces large-scale coronavirus inspections on incoming shipments.
Elsewhere, health authorities are more skeptical. The US Centers for Disease Control says there is “there is no proof“To suggest that food is associated with the spread of the virus, whereas the World Health Organization (WHO) says it is no need to disinfect food packaging. New Zealand meanwhile ruled out the theory that the August outbreak was connected to a cold chain storage facility.
Read more: Wuhan tries to get back to normal, but the scars from the pandemic disappear
China’s CDC says 670,000 samples from frozen and packaged foods was tested for COVID-19 on September 15. Reportedly, only 22 of them were positive (and prior to the Qingdao case, it was unclear whether any coronavirus was detected that was still active when thawed).
In recent months, the world’s second largest economy has temporarily suspended large imports of fish and meat. disrupt trade with some countries and reported to cause delivery congestion.
Some health experts deny the need for such precautions. Although cold temperatures can preserve the corona virus, they still doubt that food and its packaging are a big threat.
“Theoretically it makes sense, but the risk is much lower than other more established viral transmission routes,” said Siddharth Sridhar, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).
What did China discover?
China stepped up monitoring of imported food after a second wave in June that infected 335 people was attributed to Beijing’s vast Xinfadi market. The outbreak, which stopped running the capital for 56 consecutive days without new local infections, prompted partial closures of the city and an investigation into its origins.
Authorities suggested a supply of salmon from Europe might be the source after the virus was reported to have been found in a filleting board. This causes a while freeze on salmon imports, impacting exporters in Chile, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Australia and Canada. Although other people have debated that the fish are to blame, investigators in China have since duplicated on potential actors.
Also in June, China stopped importing poultry from a Tyson Foods Factory in the US amid concerns about an outbreak at the facility. And in Tianjin, a major port, authorities have reportedly started mandating coronavirus tests for all meat and seafood containers.
At the time, Li Fengqin, head of the laboratory at China’s National Food Safety Risk Assessment Center, told reporters that possibly catching the virus from frozen food and packages cannot be excluded.
Other cities come into action. In August, Shenzhen – a fast-growing technology hub bordering Hong Kong – established a central warehouse where all imported food is filtered before being sold.
Since early September, China has temporarily banned imports from 56 companies in 19 countries, including those from the US, Indonesia and Europe.
Cui He, president of the China Aquatic Product Processing and Marketing Alliance, acknowledged that it is impractical to impose a total ban on imported frozen food. “More than 100 countries around the world export frozen seafood to China,” he said state-run media.
Exporters of meat, milk and other foods have been asked to do so signed documents stated that the product was not contaminated with the corona virus.
The observation has drawn criticism from industry bodies. In September, the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Food called restrictions around food imports “not justified scientifically. “
Getting COVID-19 from food or packaging is not easy
Getting COVID-19 from food packaging is not easy and, although possible, depends on a complex set of events, health experts told TIME.
First, an infected person should cough or sneeze on the packaging. Then, while the virus is still active, other people need to touch the pack before touching their own eyes, nose or mouth.
“Everything we know about this virus shows that person-to-person transmission is the mode of transmission,” he said Emanuel Goldman, a professor of microbiology at Rutgers University.
Researchers are still studying how long the virus can stay active on food surfaces at various temperatures. According to WHO, coronavirus in general very stable in the freezing state, and studies have even shown survival of up to two years at -4 ° F.
But even if food or packaging tests positive, it doesn’t mean it’s contagious.
“The most commonly used tests can tell us that there is some viral component to the package, [but] we don’t know the status of the virus, ”said Sarah Cahill, senior food standards officer at the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the body responsible for developing food standards under WHO. “Is it still intact? Is it still feasible? Can it still cause infection? “
Read more: COVID-19 Is Transmitted By Aerosol. We Have Enough Evidence, Now It’s Time to Act
How to stay safe
The US Food and Drug Administration said so aware from China screening incoming products, seafood and meat for COVID-19. But in a statement emailed to TIME, a spokesperson said, “There is currently no evidence of food, food containers or food packaging being linked to the transmission of COVID-19.”
HKU’s Sridhar does not recommend extensive screening of imported food items, which he likens to “looking for a needle in a haystack”.
Dale Fisher, a professor of medicine at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, said China’s concern stems from a different approach to the virus than that of most other countries in the world.
He said China had “chosen to monitor this because they have zero tolerance for such cases. If you don’t target zero, then there are different tolerances for risk. “
After all, ordinary consumers need not worry, he said.
“By the time the food reaches the consumer, it has been stacked and moved enough to see the virus is very dilute and unlikely at a sufficient dose to cause infection.”
To avoid the corona virus, health experts continue to advise people to wash their hands with soap and water and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
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