Coronavirus: Contaminated Frozen Food Imported in the Sights of China

General News
The port of Tianjin, near Beijing, China.

EPIDEMIC: Two cold chain workers from Tianjin port in China were infected recently with coronavirus

China reported Wednesday two employees in the cold chain, frozen food industry have been contaminated with coronavirus Covid-19 in Tianjin (north), in a context of growing mistrust vis-à-vis imported frozen food, linked to several outbreaks. The country has contained the epidemic since the spring, thanks to draconian measures (massive screening, confinement, quarantines on arrival on the territory, monitoring of movements) and the wearing of masks.

China is thus only registering a handful of new daily cases, most of them usually coming from abroad. But extensive screening campaigns for imported foods were organized recently after the discovery of traces of coronavirus on the packaging. In the city of Wuhan (centre), where the virus was first detected at the end of 2019, authorities said Friday they had detected SARS-CoV-2 on frozen beef from Brazil.

No proof that you can be contaminated through food

Four other municipalities last week reported the presence of coronavirus in samples of frozen food from abroad – including Argentinian pork and Indian fish. Chinese customs said Friday it has so far tested more than 800,000 samples of imported frozen products and suspended shipments from 99 foreign suppliers. The suspicions date back to June, in the midst of infection in Beijing, when traces of the virus were detected on equipment used to process imported salmon.

The two employees of Tianjin, a large port metropolis located 100 km south-east of the capital, “had both previously been in contact with contaminated food from the cold chain,” authorities said. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “there is currently no evidence that people can catch Covid-19 from food or food packaging.” Transmission of the disease through frozen food is “possible, but it has not been comprehensively studied, so we do not know the extent of this spread,” said Paul Tambyah, infectious disease expert at the National University of Singapore.

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