City food inspectors from Shenzhen and Xian, China report finding traces of the COVID-19 virus on the packaging for imported chicken wings and shrimp.
China in June stepped up its scrutiny of imported food, saying the possibility that it could spread infections could not be ruled out. Two months later, local testing claims to have found traces of the virus on the frozen packaging of chicken wings from Brazil and shrimp from Ecuador.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.
“Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness and not a gastrointestinal illness, and foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission,” FDA says.
“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
China has since June increased inspections at Ports and asked originating companies shipping food to provide documentation that they are coronavirus free.
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., said China’s new export restrictions are unnecessary red tape.
“The United States understands the concerns of consumers here domestically and around the world who want to know that producers, processors, and regulators are taking every necessary precaution to prioritize food safety especially during these challenging times,” they said in a joint statement. “However, efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission.”
“There is no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from food or from food packaging. The U.S. food safety system, overseen by our agencies, is the global leader in ensuring the safety of our food products, including products for export.”
After finding the trace amounts of virus, Shenzhen authorities conducted contact tracing and tested everyone who came in contact with the frozen packing with all results turning out negative.
The health commission for the Shannxi province, which serves Xian, is also testing people and environments connected with the frozen shrimp.
Chinese officials, however, agree there is no strong evidence that the virus can spread via frozen foods. The virus might survive on contact surfaces for up to two years at temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius.
Xinfadii, Beijing’s large food market will be open again this weekend. It was closed in June when the virus was found on a chopping board reportedly used for important salmon. And some believe the first COVID-19 cases in China was linked to the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan.
The exporting countries, Brazil and Ecuador, have not responded to the report.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety Website, click here.)