Bay of Plenty Times

China claims coro­n­avirus de­tected on frozen foods

- Health · Coronavirus (COVID-19) · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Beijing · China · United States of America · New Zealand · Canada · European Union · World Health Organization

China has stirred con­tro­versy with claims it has de­tected the coro­n­avirus on pack­ages of im­ported frozen food.

Frozen shrimp im­ported from an Ecuado­rian com­pany was banned for one week on Tues­day in a con­tin­u­ing se­ries of such tem­po­rary bans.

While ex­perts say the virus can sur­vive for a time on card­board and plas­tic con­tain­ers, it re­mains un­clear how se­ri­ous a risk that poses. Like so many is­sues sur­round­ing the pan­demic, the­mat­ter has swiftly be­come politi­cised.

China has re­jected com­plaints from the US and oth­ers, say­ing it is putting peo­ple’s lives first. Ex­perts say they gen­er­ally don’t con­sider the pres­ence of the virus on pack­ag­ing to be a sig­nif­i­cant health risk.

Pack­ag­ing first be­came a ma­jor is­sue with out­breaks in China linked to whole­sale food mar­kets, in­clud­ing one in June on the out­skirts of Bei­jing. That prompted the re­moval of smoked sal­mon from su­per­mar­ket shelves and has snow­balled into mul­ti­ple cases na­tion­wide in­volv­ing chicken, beef and seafood from nearly two dozen coun­tries. At some su­per­mar­kets, im­ported meat now comes with a sticker declar­ing it to be virus-free.

In­fec­tions among freight han­dlers have also placed sus­pi­cion on pack­ag­ing. Per­son-to-per­son trans­mis­sion hasn’t been ruled out, how­ever, and China has yet to re­lease ev­i­dence that pack­ag­ing was the route of in­fec­tion.

Trad­ing part­ners, in­clud­ing the US, New Zealand, Canada and the EU, say they’re un­clear on China’s method­ol­ogy and have seen no solid ev­i­dence that their prod­ucts car­ried the virus. THEUS has ques­tioned whether China’s crack­down is sci­en­tif­i­cally based and sug­gested the bans may amount to an un­fair trade bar­rier.

Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokesper­son Zhao Li­jian called the US ac­cu­sa­tions “to­tally ground­less and un­rea­son­able”. China’s mea­sures are “nec­es­sary fol­low­ing the spirit of putting peo­ple’s lives first and pro­tect­ing peo­ple’s health,” he said last week.

In a state­ment to The As­so­ci­ated Press, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion said cases of live viruses be­ing found on pack­ag­ing ap­pear to be “rare and iso­lated”. While the virus can “sur­vive a long time un­der cold stor­age con­di­tions”, there is no ev­i­dence of peo­ple con­tract­ing Covid-19 from con­sum­ing food, it said.

The virus Sars-cov-2 that causes Covid-19 is over­whelm­ingly trans­mit­ted through res­pi­ra­tory droplets and smaller sized par­ti­cles passed through the air, un­der­scor­ing the im­por­tance of mask-wear­ing.

— AP

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