Worries Grow Over Unconfirmed Spread Of Coronavirus Via Food Packaging

Chinese officials say there may be new concerns over whether workers in the supply chain and customers could catch or transmit COVID-19, due to contact with food packaging, citing recent increases of COVID-19 cases at shipping ports.

According to an August 23 article published by Bloomberg News, a major China city reportedly banned imports of frozen meat on Sunday, after routine testing repeatedly found traces of coronavirus on packaging and food, which may pose a serious threat to the $220 billion cold food chain industry.

Although unconfirmed, China is currently investigating a link between an influx of COVID-19 cases in Beijing and the port city of Dalian, where cold food items and their packaging have tested positive for traces of coronavirus.

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Chinese officials handed down the order last week, after a series of positive tests linked to imported cold foods were confirmed, including positive coronavirus testing on samples of chicken wings imported from Brazil. The discovery resulted in the local government of Shenzhen shutting the facility down and suspending all importing operations.

In mid-June, China was forced to ban imported pork from a German manufacturer after more than 650 of its 1,000 workers at a meat packaging plant tested positive, causing concerns that such a large outbreak could have implications for those handling the imported products at Chinese facilities.

Simultaneously, Beijing halted shipments of European proteins after the virus was discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon at Beijing’s Xinfadi market. Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention experts indicated the virus had not been detected on the salmon products before entering the contaminated site. However, all imported salmon, meat and seafood products were removed from the shelves of major supermarkets across China while authorities test meat and seafood imports for traces of the virus.

Experts claim the cold food industry could be at the most risk of coronavirus contamination, as cold-storage facilities and meat processing plants are an ideal cold  and dry environment, where the virus has been found to thrive.

While thousands of cases of meat processing plant workers and food supply chain workers have contracted COVID-19, there have been no reports of direct transmission from food item or packaging exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC has warned it may be possible people can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, such as a food package or dining ware that has the virus on it, and then touching their mouth, nose or possibly eyes. However this is not believed to be the main way the virus spreads.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated the virus has been found to be able to live outside of a human host for several days depending on the environment, leaving food, materials and surfaces at risk of housing the virus. However, the length of time the virus remains active on these surface verses just inactive traces is still not fully known.

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