Authorities in China found coronavirus on the packaging and in the container of frozen shrimps imported from three Ecuadorean companies. However, samples from the seafood itself and the interior of the packaging tested negative, said Bi Kexin, director general of the Import and Export Food Safety Bureau under China’s General Administration of Customs.
In Beijing, he said that out of the almost 223,000 samples taken from imported frozen food, the interior and exterior of the packing and the surroundings, six Covid-19 samples came out positive. However, this does not mean that the virus can be transmitted via food packaging, reported SCMP.
“The results show that the container and the packaging of these companies are under the risk of becoming contaminated by the novel coronavirus,” Bi said.
“Experts said that while this does not mean they can transmit the virus, it shows that the management of food safety is not ideal.”
While Chinese officials have agreed with global experts that imported food poses a low risk of transmitting the virus, there has been confusion overseas over why China is continuing to test and halt shipments, according to The Straits Times.
The tests are “an important measure to prevent the risk of the virus being transmitted from imported cold chain food channels”, Bi said.
“This is a necessary measure taken to protect the health of the people and does not interrupt normal international trade.”
Tests on imported food have been conducted more frequently after there was a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Beijing in mid-June. The source of the infection was said to have come from a food market where the virus was found on a cutting board used for imported salmon. But experts have revealed that the fish itself was unlikely to carry the virus.
The import of food from the three Ecuadorean companies has since been suspended by Chinese customs and the food that was seized will either be returned on destroyed. The Ecuadoren authorities have also been urged to step up its control of frozen food exported to China.
As of 7 July, about 60,000 food samples from places including Zhejiang, Yunnan, Henan and Shandong provinces and the Ningxia Hui autonomous region had all been tested and found negative, according to Li Ning, the deputy director of China’s National Centre for Food Safety Risk Assessment.
“Overall, the likelihood of food being contaminated by the novel coronavirus remains very small. Food could be contaminated by the virus if it was present in the surroundings or carried by the staff handling the food,” she said.
“Staff members must not go to work if they had symptoms such as fever, coughing and fatigue.”
Li Ning also adds that “food processing facilities and retail stores should strengthen their hygiene measures to prevent infections” and that consumers should ensure that food ingredients are clean and thoroughly cooked to kill the coronavirus and other pathogenic microorganisms.
So, to answer the question – coronavirus cannot be transmitted via food packaging, but food companies definitely need to step up their hygiene protocols.
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