Experts have voiced concerns over China’s claim that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted through contaminated frozen food packaging. Over the course of the past few months, China has banned frozen food imports from several countries citing the detection of Covid-19 on the packaging.
In August of this year, Chinese authorities claimed that a sample taken from the surface of frozen chicken wings imported into the southern city of Shenzhen from Brazil, as well as samples of the outer packaging of frozen Ecuadorian shrimp sold in the northwestern city of Xian, tested positive for coronavirus.
At the time, both the WHO and the US FDA said there is no evidence that Covid-19 can be transmitted through food packaging.
On the other hand, China stepped up inspection of frozen food imports citing the case of a seafood importer in the eastern city of Qingdao. Authorities in the northeastern Jilin province also claimed to have found Covid-19 on the packaging of imported squid in the city of Fuyu.
This further prompted China to suspend frozen food imports from 56 companies from across 19 countries.
The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement in October saying that it detected and isolating living coronavirus on the outer packaging of frozen cod in Qingdao.
Countries faced with the Chinese import ban on frozen food packaging, including the US, New Zealand, Canada and the EU, claimed China presented no solid evidence that the products carried the coronavirus.
Spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, Zhao Lijan responded by saying that the measures are “necessary following the spirit of putting people’s lives first and protecting people’s health”.
The Associated Press quoted the WHO as saying that cases of live viruses being isolated from food packaging seem to be “rare and isolated”. While Covid-19 can survive a long time under cold storage conditions, there is no evidence to suggest that one can contract the virus from consuming food.
Andrew Pekosz of Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health told the Associated Press that a positive Covid-19 test does not indicate infectious virus but merely indicates that “some virus is present on the surface”.
Similarly, Timothy Newsome, a virologist at the University of Sydney told AP, “We know low temperatures do stabilize the virus. Nonetheless, I think things which have been transported and surface transmission – there’s a low risk of it.”